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
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
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