Is reality TV making us more narcissistic?

Is reality TV making us more narcissistic?


Over the last few decades, more and more people have been drawn to television as a source of free, instant entertainment. Now, our TV sets provide us with a large number of options, spread across news, film or sports channels, as well as other channels that offer miscellaneous content.

It turns out that out of all possible choices available to them, many people prefer to turn to reality television as their genre of choice. The preference is totally justifiable, for reality TV offers them the chance to participate – at least virtually – in real life situations they otherwise could not be part of.

However, researchers draw attention to the dangerous link between reality TV and heightened narcissism. A new study, included in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture, attests to this. The hypothesis that daily TV exposure, particularly to genres like drama and sports is linked with higher levels of narcissism was put to the test by surveying over 500 college students.

The participants were asked how much time they spend watching TV on a daily basis. Then, they were presented with a list of 15 TV-show genres, including comedies, crime dramas, game shows, soap operas, and late-night talk shows, which they had to rate according to their preference and time spent watching each genre. Finally, they were asked to complete the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, in which they were instructed to choose between 40 pairs of statements.

“Many of the messages to which we are exposed on the TV today feature rampant self-interest, disregard of others’ well-being, and a focus on the individual—which are all components of narcissism. Our research suggests that those messages may, in turn, be cultivating narcissism in society” , write Robert Lull of the University of Pennsylvania and Ted Dickinson of Ohio State University, the two authors of the study.