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"Interview with Shrink who Screens these guys"
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Outfrontgirl 5470 desperate attention whore postings
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09-26-01, 05:38 PM (EST)
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"Interview with Shrink who Screens these guys"
This Psychologist for Reality TV screened contestants for Survivor, Love Cruise, BigBrother, and Amazing Race. Found this interview, which sleeeve (reporter) points out could go in any of these forums. Not to do overkill, I'll put it here.

So, any comments on this evolving "science" or the "ethics" issues?
Reality TV Psychologists: People's Protectors or Sleazy Shrinks?
Ethics Questions Trouble Even Those Deeply Involved in Producing These Shows
By Daniel DeNoon
Sept. 24, 2001 -- No doubt many of the TV networks are hoping that Americans will tune in to so-called reality TV this week, in order to tune out all the harsh reality that's has been broadcast lately.
This week marks the start of the fall TV season, and on the schedule are a slew of reality shows featuring everything from true romance to grand adventure. To help produce them, TV crews have their own psychologists who have been hard at work concocting and monitoring the situations to bring to your screen. And even to the pros, some situations are a push right to the edge.
Take psychologist Richard W. Levak, PhD. He is in charge of screening contestants for CBS reality TV shows such as Survivor, The Amazing Race, and Big Brother 2. He also teaches at the California School of Professional Psychology in San Diego and has written three books on personality testing. As he stood in front of hundreds of his peers at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association recently, he admitted to a sense of trespass.
Levak acknowledges that it is part of the APA's code of ethics to protect society's values.
"How many of you as psychologists have a gut bad feeling about reality programs?" he asked the crowded lecture hall. Eighty percent raised their hands. "That is just how I feel -- and I'm doing it," he says.
Joining Levak at the presentation titled "Reality TV -- Psychologists in Prime Time," were session chairwoman Kate M. Wachs, PhD, past president of the APA's division of media psychology, and M. Gene Ondrusek, PhD. Ondrusek is the first psychologist to become involved in reality TV, working on the original Survivor and now involved with existing or in-production shows such as Love Cruise, Boot Camp, Combat Mission, Future Diary, The Runner, and Fear Factor. He's also helping to create new shows for various networks.
Wachs notes that four of the five most-watched programs on U.S. television are reality TV shows. She says this is because we have evolved a need to know what our neighbors are up to: that is, whether they are a threat or a sexual opportunity.
Wachs also notes that this is the 30th anniversary of the infamous prison study by Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo. Zimbardo randomly assigned students to play the role of guards or prisoners. The study had to be ended when the students acting as guards quickly became abusive toward prisoner students. The experiment led to new ethics guidelines for research.
Wachs says the Zimbardo study shows "how people put in compelling situations can create compelling behaviors." That, she says, is the nature of reality TV. "Finding the compelling nature of something, distilling it, and giving it back to ourselves in a compelling form is in our nature. It's like turning grapes into wine or cocaine into crack."
Ondrusek notes that psychologists are hired not only to weed out contestants who might pose a danger or break down under the stress, but also to "include people who will make for compelling TV."
This process calls for in-depth psychological testing of potential contestants. Once contestants are chosen, a psychologist is available to deal with problems on the set. When contestants lose and have to leave the show, the psychologist is the first person to meet them. After a "debriefing session," former contestants have the option of further telephone consultations when the show airs.
"Debriefing helps people expand into the experience and use it in life-changing ways," Ondrusek says. "Psychologists can help by the finding the delicate balance between creating these situations and taking care of contestants."
Indeed, most people who have been on reality TV shows say that the experience changed their lives for the better. But Levak says the possibility of the opposite outcome is the kind of thing that keeps him up at night.
Levak went over each point in the APA code of ethics. Each point poses a problem for psychologists involved in reality TV.
One dilemma is the requirement that psychologists respect a person's rights and dignity.
"The problem is that contestants waive all their rights, and sometimes losing their dignity is the point of the show," Levak says. "That is complicated for us."
Professional integrity is an issue because it is difficult to keep straight where the psychologists' responsibilities lie. Is it with the producers who hire them or with the people who trust them with intimate details of their lives?
TV producers, Levak says, "want you to give them the scoop on the contestants' vulnerabilities, and also want you to make the contestants feel good about being exploited," Levak says. "We say, 'We are going to help you take care of your contestants. But we are going to be careful not to give you things you can exploit.' I will protect the privacy of peoples' debriefing, because when they come home, they need a safe place. ... We are walking this very thin line between working for the producers but protecting the show by protecting the contestants. It is a very fine line."
If Ondrusek has qualms about his role, he does not admit them in public. He speaks instead about the excitement of creating new ways for people to look at human nature.
"Reality shows are in their infancy," Ondrusek says. "Entertainment since Sophocles has recounted and acted out dramas. That has been the model for entertainment up to present day. This is the first time we have been able to create a new form of drama by creating contexts for compelling behavior."
Well, perhaps not the first time. Two thousand years ago, Roman producers created compelling drama by feeding people to lions.
2001 WebMD Corporation. All rights reserved.

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