Home > Uncategorized > BB Ethical or Unethical? YOU DECIDE!!!

BB Ethical or Unethical? YOU DECIDE!!!

Hey Bloggers!!! Weekly Blog No 4. This week I have decided to write about the television phenomena that is : “Big Brother”, because regardless of whether you love it or hate it, no-one can deny that it is the most recognised social psychological experiment of our era.  In fact during its 2009 launch, figures peaked when it pulled in excess of 4 million viewers demonstrating its popularity and appeal with the nation.  So its formula of throwing a mix of stereotypical individuals into a box Skinner styli!  and  waiting for the consequences to occur, or in most cases explode has proven to be a winning one.  However despite its success and obvious influence on youth culture, it has been heavily criticised for both its content and treatment of participants.   There have been many instances when the BPS has voiced its concern for the participants when the programme has overtly flouted ethical codes of conduct. 

So I’m going to highlight a few controversies that have occurred within the programme and “open floor up for discussion” as they say!! 

  • In 2006 Shahbaz Chaudhry convinced the BB psychologist’s that he was mentally stable enough to take part in the show.  Whilst in the house Shahbaz revealed how he had suffered abuse during his early childhood then he was seen breaking down on national television and threatening to commit suicide.
  • In 2007 Big Brother was the subject of controversy when it projected Peter Bennet into the public eye.  As we have come to know, Pete suffers from the extreme form of Tourette’s syndrome known as (Coprolalia).  The severity of Pete’s condition and his battle to retain his dignity was exposed before the entire nation but it was his diary room visits that revealed the true extent of his vulnerability.  The TSA (Tourette’s syndrome Association) slated Big Brother, accusing the programme makers of exploiting and humiliating Peter.  The TSA claimed that BB had picked Peter as contestant purely because he demonstrated the more pronounced form of the syndrome to add to the programmes shock value.  However, Big Brother maintained that they only ever had good intention and rather that they were merely trying to raise awareness of the condition.
  • Again in 2007 the programme makers selected contestant Nikki Grahame alias “Princess of Tantrums” and the nation was exposed to the plight of a young woman battling with a life threatening eating disorder.  Nikki revealed how during her entire adolescence her OCD had led to repeated hospitalisation for psychiatric therapy.  Yet again BB received extensive criticism and was accused of exploitation of an individual who was in fragile state of mind.
  • Then in 2009 Big Brother shocked when contestants Jade Goody, Danielle Lloyd and Jo O’Meara were accused of launching a racial attack on fellow contestant, Indian Actress Shilpa Shetty.  The participant’s behaviour was exposed for the world to see.  It was subsequently followed by a frenzied debate on whether the ethical rights of the participants had been violated and whether if at all, programme makers should have released footage into the public domain.  Public opinion on this matter varied from those who were concerned with the future well-being of all participants to those who believed that the behaviour was a necessary evil that needed to be exposed.  The back lash from the controversy fuelled extensive media coverage which led to huge newspaper sales.  Indian perceptions of the British public had been tarnished and they responded with huge public outcry to the extent that there were demonstrations and burning of effigies of the shows directors.  BB employs a team of psychologist’s who vet contestant’s suitability for the programme.  So let’s discuss whether or not they have flouted the four main BPS ethical principles of respect, responsibility, competence and integrity?
Categories: Uncategorized
  1. October 18, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    I have never understood why people love to watch big brother, it just seems like a bunch of mismatched people have been thrown together knowing some are going to come to blows. However I do not think the decisions of the producers to put in sufferers of different illnesses were intentional to break them in front of millions. Going on Big Brother is a personal choice and contestants who have watched previous shows should know that vulnerable people are more likely to have breakdowns whilst in the house. As for the case with Peter Bennet, I believe there would have been an uproar if he was not accepted just for the reason he suffers with Tourette’s Syndrome. So either way Big Brother would have had some stick for it! If a contestant can hide severe mental problems from a psychologist then why is it his fault? Surely he did his job, concluded his findings and found nothing wrong with the contestant. If Big Brother was that unethical surely it would not still be on the air would it??

    • October 18, 2011 at 9:07 pm

      I think everyone is an individual but that some individuals fit more easily into stereotypical categories. I think BB does follow a formula which involves selecting contestants that are controversial and ones which may rub each other up the wrong way. I think its a motivated selection process which carefully considers the potential for change within group dynamics because that is what the programme makers and its viewers want. Surely it’s the forming norming storming and performing as described by Tuckman 1965 that has led to BB’s success with the viewers. However, there have been numerous incidents on the programme when contests have been at risk in one way or another and for these reasons I think the programme is unethical.

  2. October 18, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    I am a HUGE fan of big brother and I’m not ashamed to say so. In what situation are you able to view 15 strangers (at first) for 24hours a day, interact with each other in ways that are so natural as we do them every day. It is a platform for social interactions to be shown, understood and discussed.
    I am aware that the BB producers do well in picking a wide range of people to enter the house, however I believe this is so important, as it lets us view the whole spectrum of human beings in one place at one time. In relation to the cases such as Pete who had Tourette’s, I believe this was not an attempt to expose Pete to the public in a “circus” way, but to simply raise awareness and to show how he was still able to form relationships etc. In fact he was so popular that he won that year!
    I believe BB is ethical, it is their own choice to enter the house, they are aware what they are going into! The house shows the lives of people just like us, interacting in the same way as we would, but with the only difference of the fact we can watch!

  3. October 19, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    You raise interesting points, especially in terms of participants having prior knowledge to what they are going to be exposed to and in some cases, I do actually think this mitigates for acccusations against the programme makers and its team of psychologists. But what about the racial attack against Shilpa Shetty, do you think that in this era she went into the house realising that she was going to be victim of racism. I mean we are talking about an international film star and a very affluent one at that, not someone desperate for money. Do you honestly think she felt yes I know that I am going to be a victim of racism and yes Im up for that and any aftermath that goes with it?

  4. October 20, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Thought I would share this, just reading Andy Field (Psychologist). He admits to being glued to BB every year.
    Quote “Big Brother contestants on the whole have profound personality defects”. He suggests that this could be investigated by using the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire for example and measuring the dependent variable of personality against the independent variable of the different participant reponses to the questionnaire. The results of which are likely to confirm his hypothesis that “most BB participants have narcissistic personality disorder”……..Brilliant luv it …… but wait it gets better!!!

    This data then would inform the theory that either
    a) People with narcissistic personalities are more likely to appear in BB or…..
    b) That programme makes are more likely to select participants who have narcissistic personality disorders.

    This is the science behind the formula that support’s the winning concept of BB.
    See Page 4 & 5 of Andy Field table 1.1 and conclusions for more really exciting data, hypothesis, analysis, reinforcing theories concerning BB.

  5. October 27, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Heyy, hate big brother, can’t actually stand it! But I think that Peter Bennet did so much for sufferers of Tourettes. He opened the publics eye into realising that people with Tourettes are just the same as everyone else. He seemed to turn Tourettes into something which was even kind of cool to have and I bet that him being on big brother gave confidence to so many people who suffer with it. As for people with eating disorders etc, they want to go on the show themselves so i don’t think its big brother exploiting them. Although they do in a way to make the show more interesting, but I think it helps educate the public. As for Psychologists studying big brother, how do they know that the participants aren’t acting or exaggerating on television?

  6. October 28, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Of course its unethical, Its the media! The media see one persons disorder as another persons pure entertainment. So why are psychologists even condoneing the fact that they are putting individuals out there for the world to slate and hate. Take Charley for example, she had herself and her family out because of the hate she got, yet, psychologists sat by and watched the public hate her. Thats nearly every rule broken, because they should have knwon she wouldn’t have withdrawn from that because the contestants are not allowed to know what the public think of them. Let alone the possible outlying dangers of what will happen when they go back into civiliaztion so to speak, and psychologists are their for a reason, they knew that would happen and sat back and watched that happen. The people that go into that house, yes do know what they are going into but they are probably so blinded with excitement and the fortune of actually being famous they forget what can happen if the public hate them.
    I did used to like big brother and its intersting to see the spectrum of personalitys but its hard to remember that its just not those people in the house they are actually communicating with its the public too. Fame ruins people. and so does the media. If the media want you to hate someone they will make sure you do, and the amount of harm and deception on that person the media are portraying in such a bad light is astonishing.
    Its unethical and psychologists on that show shouldn’t even be calling themselves that.
    Great blog.

    • October 28, 2011 at 9:43 pm

      Thankyou for replying to my blog, great at last someone who agrees that the programme is completely unethical. I refer once again to Page 5 of Andy Fields Spss that scientifically supports the unethical nature of the programme. That of the 7662 participants who auditioned, 854 were diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. This equates to 11% which exceeds the expected 1%. Supporting Hypothesis 1, that more vunerable individuals are accepted on to the programme. Also out of the 12 pp’s, 9 are believed to have the disorder therefore supporting Hypothesis 2, that the panel who select pp’s are bias in their choice.

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