Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

When I was back in the United States in Canada, I got sucked into the whole Reality T.V. phenomena, and like it or not, admit it or not, most people seemed to know what was going on on the shows...

Reality T.V. aka Massive Social Psychology Experiment

Who would have ever thought that television would be the next frontier from which to gather social psychology information? Social psychology theory and experiments were always fascinating to read about, but I always thought of it as an impractical area of study. How do social psychology majors get the bills paid after college?

Gone were the days of the classic psychological experiments that I’d read about- or so I thought. After looking at the current code of ethics for psychological experiments*, I couldn’t help but think: What fun or creativity is there left in conducting psychological experiments?

Classic social psychology experiments** of the past would never happen today… or would they? Now it’s unethical for psychologists to mess with the head of innocent test subjects.

But it’s okay for the major networks to do it. It’s social psychology for the masses, in the form of reality T.V. For all you aspiring social psychologists, there’s a job out there for you at one of the major networks. Don’t bother with the degree. The more outrageous the concept the better! Don’t have to worry about any recourse or action taken against you because all participants are required to sign a waiver of their rights. Throw ethics out the door and get paid the big bucks. Real World. Big brother. The Mole. Fear Factor. Survivor. Temptation Island. Who wants to marry a millionaire? Joe Millionaire. The bachelorette. What will they think of next? What values, morals or beliefs can we put to the test?

I’ll bet all the social psychologists out there are green with envy and would love a piece of the action. I wonder what follow up studies on the long term effects of being on a reality show would reveal. One can’t help but wonder how such an experience might impact on a person’s life or what their behavior/performance on the show reveals about their personality.

Reality T.V. oh ya gotta love it if not for it’s incredible entertainment value, for it’s ability to make yourself feel better than those people out there making fools of themselves on national T.V., or giving everyone something in common to talk about.

*Code of Ethics for Psychological Experiments

Loosely summarized, the code of ethics for psychological experiments are as follows: 1) DOING NO HARM i.e. individuals participating in the experiment are not taking any risks outside of the range that they would normally expose themselves to 2) CONSENT of test subject is required, 3) DECEPTION should be used only if the subject would not object once they have discovered that they have been deceived or if the scientific or educational value of findings justifies the deception, 4) FREEDOM TO WITHDRAW on the part of the test subject 5) CONFIDENTIALITY of study findings, 6) DEBRIEFING to address concerns or questions of test subject, to explain experiment procedures. [I can’t help but think that this code sounds like ground rules that some people might want to consider in other certain types of “collaborative” efforts.]

**Classic social psychology experiments include Milgram’s obedience studies, in which an experimenter ordered a test subject to administer electrical shocks to a third person at incrementally high voltages. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the test subject the third person was the experimenter’s co-conspirator who was not actually being shocked, but acted as if he/she were being shocked at each increased level by letting out screams. How far would individuals go in obeying an authority figure? … and Asch’s conformity studies, in which a test subject was placed in a room with confederates and when asked questions, the confederates would unanimously respond with the wrong answer. Asch was testing how an individual’s answers would be influenced by a tendency to conform.


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