Pop Culture Q3

Social Experiments on Netflix

By Amelia Field

Social experiments are something which have cropped up recently on Netflix and the psychologist within me has always been quick to jump on the bandwagon and binge watch every one of them. With a combination of strikes and now quarantine I have been able to immerse myself in these shows and quickly lose faith in knowing that no tv show will ever be as informative as Horrible Histories. Despite this, I want to share 2 of Netflix’s most recent additions to their cohort of pseudo-scientific shows.

First off is 100 humans. I managed to watch this whole series within the space of 2 days which proves how much of an easy watch it is. The premise of the show is that a diverse group of 100 individuals coming from different backgrounds, being different ages and races can help us to understand what makes us alike and sets us apart. These humans live together for a number of weeks in which a number of hypothesis are tested from which age performs best at certain tasks, to the age-old question, does having good dance moves impact your sperm count.
From these questions, we can see that this show has a lighthearted nature and many of the experiments are conducted in silly ways. Despite the researchers trying to control variables, there is always a multitude of extraneous variables that prevent the findings from being truly accurate.

This causes negative influences to audiences because if they are sold a show masquerading being truly scientific they will be mislead to believe that these findings are based in fact. Although for certain studies such as ‘Are people in uniform more attractive’ the findings will not have any meaningful impact on real life but in the case of something like ‘Which sex is better at performing tasks’ these findings may be the basis of discrimination which can be a hindrance to society.

The second show which has truly baffled me is Love is Blind. Another recent addition to Netflix’s cohort of ‘trashy’ reality tv shows. This show sets out to test the saying ‘Love is Blind’ by testing it out on attractive 20-30 year old Americans.

Participants communicate with each other through isolated pods and go through the whole process of meeting to engagement without seeing the person in the opposite pod. In order to truly test the hypothesis, I believe that the couples should meet on their wedding day and see if they go through with the wedding, but instead of this reasonable idea, the show drops the whole concept ‘Love is Blind’ as soon as possible. After getting engaged, the fiancés are revealed to each other and then proceed to live together for a month before their wedding.

The show manages to exploit every emotional fragility that the contestants may have as well as cause many to be embarrassed in front of their friends and family when their so-called ‘fiancé’ leaves them at the altar inevitably crushing any ideas about love they may have.

Although this show is truly binge-worthy and will have you so emotionally invested in the love triangle that is Jessica, Mark and Barnett, the outcome of this show is very far from a credible social experiment. In order to keep the show on a positive note, two couples came out of the experiment supposedly happily married but messages that this show sends out about relationships and the desperate nature of those not married past the age of 30 is not benefiting society in any way except its entertaining nature.

The key with these TV programs is to take them with a pinch of salt and recognise that they are not real scientific experiments. In the case of Love is blind the hypothesis is not truly tested and abandoned at the first possible opportunity and in the case of 100 humans, although slightly more scientific than the other show we must not recognise this as a truly legitimate scientific TV show, rather a bit of fun where we can maybe learn a little more about humankind.