Watching reality television shows that glamorize wealth may make you less sympathetic to those in need, claims one study
Watching reality television shows, such as the wildly popular Keeping Up With the Kardashians, is considered a (somewhat innocent) “guilty pleasure” for the millions who tune in every week. However, according to a recent study, absorbing “materialistic media” such as the aforementioned series that follows the wildly wealthy Kardashian-Jenner family, can actually make you a crappier person. The study, published by the London School of Economics and Political Science, claims that people who watch shows that glamorize excessive wealth and fame are less sympathetic to those in need.
The LSE study involved 487 British adults between the age of 18 to 49, split into two groups. One was exposed to four advertisements for luxury products, four tabloid photos of famous celebrities showing off expensive goods, and four newspaper headlines of rags to riches stories, while the other was exposed to “neutral stimuli” that included advertisements about the London underground, images of natural scenery and newspaper headlines about dinosaurs. Then, the groups were asked questions that measured how they felt about wealth and success, government benefits, impoverished people, and whether they supported governmental enactment of public policies that were “modeled after actual UK government tax cuts, austerity measures, and welfare reforms that according to extensive policy research, have had detrimental effects on welfare institutions and beneficiaries.”
They were also asked about their television watching habits of nine television shows including Keeping Up With the Kardashians and their reading consumption of five daily tabloid newspapers, often featuring stories about rich and famous celebrities, and ten magazines, such as Vogue, Cosmopolitan, GQ and Esquire that advertise luxury products. And guess what? Researchers found that people who watched shows glorifying wealth, such as the Kardashians, were much more likely to hold “stronger materialistic and anti-welfare attitudes than lighter consumers of these shows.”
“Results suggest that momentary exposure to and regular consumption of materialistic media messages (MMMs) induces stronger materialism and anti-welfare attitudes,” says Dr Rodolfo Leyva of LSE’s Department of Media and Communications, in his paper “Experimental insights into the socio-cognitive effects of viewing materialistic media messages on welfare support.”
Shows such as the Kardashians, “are replete with MMMs (materialistic media messages) that are engineered to absorb audiences into the glamorous world of wealth and celebrities and thus have a strong potential to function as cultivators of materialistic values and attitudes.” Basically, as more emphasis is put on materialism, people become “more inclined to be selfish and anti-social, and therefore unsympathetic to people less fortunate.”
In addition to making us insensitive a-holes, he added that frequent exposure to these types of shows has also been linked to “several troubling trends and adverse effects,” including body dissatisfaction and decreased well-being in children as well as “increased levels of stress, life dissatisfaction, and anxiety.”
Okay, so you love the Kardashians, and just can’t quit them. Just try and keep this study in the back of your mind as a reality check. Despite the fact that reality television has the word “reality” in it, generally it is anything but real.