The More Reality TV You Watch, the More One Night Stands You Have | Smart News | Smithsonian
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The More Reality TV You Watch, the More One Night Stands You Have

Watching reality television that depicts sex does actually say something about your sex life, according to new research

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Image: Jerry Wong

If aliens judged our society based on what they could watch on reality television, they’d probably think we were all incredibly tan and not all that mentally stable. They’d also probably think that we’re a world of one night stands—from Big Brother to The Real World to Temptation Island, our reality show stars are all about the single-night slumber party.

But watching reality television that depicts sex does actually say something about your sex life, according to new research. In a recent study published in the Journal of Cognitive & Behavioral Psychotherapies, scientists surveyed college students about their television habits and sexual behavior. Nura Rutten at United Academics explains what they found:

They found that those students who watch reality shows with a focus on sexual relationships have a greater chance to engage in one-night stands than those who do not watch these. Also, greater sexual permissiveness and perceived realism are associated with one-night stands. Other studies showed that people that perceive reality TV as more real are associated with using reality television for entertainment, relaxation, social interaction, and companionship.

The idea that television changes people’s behaviors isn’t all that new. Characters on these shows are generally rewarded for promiscuous behavior. Those who like to watch these shows probably identify in some way with those characters. According to a theory in social psychology called Sensitivity Theory, the media people consume is liked to 16 basic needs—things like honor, idealism, curiosity and romance.

So aliens might be right to judge us from our reality television. At least a little bit.

More from Smithsonian.com:

9 Percent of People Would Have Sex With a Robot (And 42 Percent of Them Would Consider It Cheating)
What Is Sex Like for Someone with Synesthesia?

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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