Television

Reality TV stunts could provoke distress, anxiety

NEW YORK: For some viewers, especially those with a history of phobias or anxiety, reality television may be unsafe!

A study released in the US indicates that viewers experience a greater increase in heart rate and more distress watching the reality show Fear Factor than they do watching an actor in a similar situation in a fictional movie.

Celeste C McCarty and Dr Michael Vandehey, both of Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, observed 60 undergraduate students as they watched similar stunts performed on reality television and in fictional stories.

A Reuters report quotes the study author McCarthy as saying that that the programme could cause even more extreme reactions in viewers who have undergone trauma.

The report also quoted co-author Dr Vandehey as saying that people who don't watch such shows might accidentally witness such sequences while surfing channels.

During the tests, the students were exposed to situations from Fear Factor as well as their larger screen counterparts in feature films such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Troop Beverly Hills. It was found that the "fictional stunts" didn't provoke the kind of reactions which "real stunts" did.

Reporting during the annual convention of the Southwestern Psychological Association in New Orleans, McCarty and Vandehey found that people experienced an increase in heart rate by 8 beats per minute watching fictional stunts, and an increase in 11 beats per minute while watching the stunts performed by non-actors.

Resting heart rate -- in adults, normally between 60 and 100 beats per minute -- was taken while students watched clips from a real estate channel.

Students also reported feeling more negative emotions during the reality stunts than the fictional ones, the authors report. Also, the researchers stated that people love to watch reality TV as they may like reality shows in the same way they like rollercoasters - which provide a thrill without the threat of immediate physical danger.

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