Gossip, insults and swear words permeate popular reality shows like "The Apprentice" and "American Idol". Producers put participants in a booth and bait them into saying something nasty about their competitors, reveals new research.
Researchers from Brigham Young University (BYU) looked at five reality shows and five non-reality shows. They found 52 acts of aggression per hour on reality TV compared to 33 per hour for non-reality programmes.
"The Apprentice" topped the list at 85 acts of verbal or relational aggression per hour.
"American Idol" checked in a little lower at 57 aggressive acts per hour - but then again, backbiting is tough to do while singing.
"I knew the level of aggression was going to be high, but I had no idea it was going to be this high," said Sarah Coyne, BYU professor of family life, who led the study.
Numerous other studies, including one by Coyne, demonstrate that meanness rubs off on viewers. And that was using very contrived and clearly fictional scenes.
Researchers analysed 120 hours of programming and coded every instance of physical, verbal and relational aggression. The 10 shows selected for the study are popular with audiences in Britain, although several shows are American productions.
"Of any type of programme out there, I would think that reality programmes are the most likely to be imitated," Coyne said.
"All audiences think it won't affect them, but we aren't as immune as we think we are," Coyne concluded, according to BYU release.
David Nelson, professor from BYU's School of Family Life, is a study co-author.