Soon we will be tuning in once more to beat the winter blues by watching the new arrivals in the Australian Jungle. The campmates have been carefully selected, and evaluated by the shows psychologists and psychiatrists to assess their psychological fitness to endure three weeks of stress and endurance. They will be living in very unnatural environments for the three weeks and will experience various levels of psychological intensity and invariable levels of coping skills to become King or Queen of the Jungle. We can recall Tracy Solomon’s hilarious giggles and the effervescent Joe Swash, now her new beau, and last year’s Vicky Pattison. But have your really thought about the effects this exposure has on their individual psyche and physiology? Here is a glimpse into the work of the TV psychologist who would be a consultant to the show and what producers need to take into account in the shows production. As a Celebrity Psychologist who has studied their behaviour on and off screen for many years I want to outline the major psychological issues they have to deal with.
- THE POWER OF THE SITUATION
Being fully aware of being watched and observed by millions of viewers. They will evaluate other campmates motivation and fears on the Bushtucker trials and become competitive. Once they arrive, the first two days will be one of affiliation, working our “personalities” who to affiliate with and who to avoid. This is where allies will become the focus of attention. If the viewers bring their own negativities to individual celebrities by voting them onto more Bushtucker trials then the Celebs motivation centre is alarmed to push themselves to the limits to “save face” .Here we will see who is altruistic and who is not. Personality and power of the situation work together to predict celebrities social behaviour in the Jungle.
- IMPRESSION FORMATION.
All campmates are out to impress and whilst we know from psychological and media research they score high on Narcissism traits in most cultures, nevertheless, they will be motivated to show their other side some of the time, but not all of the time. Levels of male and female physical attractiveness will make a first impression on viewers and this will influence voting behaviour, … their psychological makeup comes second. Viewers agree on who is hot and who is not! People have a strong tendency to associate physical beauty with positive personality characteristics. If a campmate views another campmate as more attractive, then he or she will see that other person as a possible alliance. In past series of I’m A Celebrity .. these alliances often become Jungle romances with potential for off screen romance. Attractive females form onscreen alliance with attractive males in the Jungle. ( Maybe not facilitated by the Leeches!) campmates will also work out who is not to be trusted and who will stab them in the back.. so to speak.bring out the Lady C to put the camp in order. Alliances are vital as people have to stay alive and survive in restricted diets so strategizing is central . Getting people to like you means a lot. Watch out for deception and deceit in the camp as campmates will gradually disclose what information they disclose to others. Manipulation of information and personalities will become established within the first three days of being there. The most common strategy contestants use is self promotion.They champion their own cause by extolling their own virtues, demonstrating their abilities and minimizing their shortcomings. Supplication will be used and seen by those who constantly remark about tiredness hunger diet and lethargy.
- LIGHTS, CAMERA, ATTRACTION.
A wide range of emotions will be displayed in the Jungle as the campmates emotional mechanisms in the brain will be stretched to their full capacity. They will have feelings of fear joy sadness, loneliness, remoteness, being away from close family members and also they will show disgust contempt and anger. Whether they are in love… or experience joy at the Bushtucker trials .. whole bodies will be sweaty, with no regular showers and high levels of competitiveness will bring out the fight flight response. Arousal mechanisms will be tested in high altitude tasks ie over a ravine or river. and this will see eustress come into play. Winning a Bushtucker trial will bring immense joy and self satisfaction winning a meal for their campmates. People behave differently on camera so many contestants will make some alterations to their everyday behaviour. Emotions can become stretched when some might feel humiliated violated dehumanized or disrespected by sexual antics or misappropriate behaviour by either sex. High arousal during some of the trials will produce emotions of love for some campmates. Animosity is likely also to be seen. This is usually caused by some celebs “social Loafing” not really playing their part in the team, while all the hard work depends on the same few. Letters arriving form home will arouse many emotions. They cry for themselves and for campmates.
4. Stress and Coping in the Jungle environment.
The celebs will endure extreme stress under natural conditions, but are motivated to conform to group tasks on the Bushtucker trials and win votes. There is also the audience effect and meeting the public’s expectations. Social stress of gossiping about others will cause intergroup conflict but alliances will form and the excitement will increase viewer’s attention. Forming alliances is very predominant and extremely important gamesmanship tactic. The gossiping increases once romantic alliances from and it also increases and strengthens strategic alliances. In psychological experiments we know from observing monkeys that they form social groupings. Stress produces dominance in some individual campmates and so we see a shift in the parameters of the game.- form working as a team against another group of campmates, to maintaining ones individual viability in a merged tribe.To combat the stress some campmates will form alliances rather spontaneously , becoming a predominant and extremely important gamesmanship tactic Watch the skilful tactics of ex campmates like Lady C who was very careful wo she would affiliate with. For much of the time she showed no evidence of this in order to project herself into the limelight and display dominance with verbal aggression. Stress among campmates generates another strategic tactic known as gossiping about the others. In other reality television programmes such as Love Island and Survivor we see this incessantly talking behind others backs.This works in the interest of forming and strengthening strategic alliances, but gossiping serves as a social glue emotionally bonding some campmates. Psychologists like myself who research reality tv contestants behaviour onscreen and off screen have found that when we shar enticing titbits of information it helps us form trusting relationships in the camp and solidify social bonding.
5. Physical Stress
The entire jungle experiences is imbued with physically gruelling tasks not normally experienced in their daily lives back in UK or USA. They are relatively deprived of shelter water and food to some degree, Leaving aside the many ethical issues involved in this situation there are agreed limits above which producers must not tread.There is a duty of care towards all campmates and this has to be balanced out within the context of the realty show. This motivates them to improvise as best they can and also attempt to win a meal for their team. Physical stressors such as food deprivation also alters their psychological functioning such as motivation and irritability besides frustration and increased awareness of their isolation from family back at home. This can trigger off aggressiveness and impulsive behaviours with outbursts of anger and fatigue.