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The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Radhika Parameswaran, Erica Scharrer, Vicki Mayer, Sharon Mazzarella, Kelly Gates, John Nerone, Angharad N. Valdivia

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16

Tracing the Course of Reality TV Effects Research

Robin L. Nabi, Jiyeon So, and Theresa de los Santos

ABSTRACT

This chapter overviews the history of reality-based TV research, starting with efforts to define the genre and understand why people watch such programming, with particular attention to issues of voyeurism and desire for fame. The discussion then turns to research on the effect of reality TV consumption, which has progressed primarily through the lenses of cultivation theory, social cognitive theory, and perceived realism. Given the general focus on the negative effects of reality TV consumption, the chapter goes on to examine the possible benefits of watching reality TV, such as enhancing learning, coping potential, and cooperative behavior. The chapter concludes with some consideration of the health implications of watching reality TV programming, including desire for cosmetic surgery enhancements and motivation for healthy living.

Development of the Genre

Although its history reaches back to the early days of television, reality-based programming, or “reality TV”, did not gain substantial popularity until the dawn of the twenty-first century. Over 100 new reality programs have aired since the summer of 2000, and the genre continues to dominate as the newest staple of the TV diet in the United States and beyond (Reality TV World, 2010). Its increasing popularity among viewers is matched by the increasing attention researchers have paid to understanding not only ...

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