Reality TV creating a generation of narcissists - expert

Judges on the reality TV show The Voice Australia.
Judges on the reality TV show The Voice Australia.

Reality TV is producing a whole generation of narcissists, a researcher says.

Dr Jean Twenge, who co-authored The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, will speak about the normalisation of narcissism at the Happiness conference in Sydney this week.

Dr Twenge says the plethora of reality shows is changing the way people think.

"It has a bigger than average effect on the culture because the shows are very popular," the San Diego State University Professor of Psychology told AAP.

"They are supposed to show real life and what they actually are is a showcase for narcissistic people and behaviours. They make narcissism seem normal."

Shows like The Voice, X-Factor and Big Brother also foster the belief that being narcissistic will help you succeed.

However, research has shown that isn't necessarily the case.

"It is good for public performance, and probably good for reality TV at least in the short term, but in the long term that personality type doesn't get along very well with other people and so it actually doesn't work out very well.

"Most the time they (narcissists) take too many risks, they're not aware of their own limitations and much of the time their performance is worse than other people who are not as narcissistic."

Reality shows also create a perception that becoming famous is easy and that it's just out of reach, Dr Twenge says.

"This is a very frustrating position to be in because although there may be more opportunities now to be discovered it doesn't mean you have substantially more people who are famous and earn a lot of money.

"It's still a very, very small percentage of people who become successful as a musician or movie star."

Dr Twenge says caution also needs to be exercised when it comes to reality shows involving children.

"If it's going to give young children the idea, first that fame is the number one goal in life and second that's it's easy to achieve, that would be problematic," she says.

- AAP

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