This short paper discusses ethical issues as embedded in a TV reality show format that provides the [ill-designed] imagined setting for a social psychology-informed research project looking at group dynamics and performance under stress. The core principles of informed consent, briefing and debriefing, backup, coercion and incentives are applied to the experiment.
Endemol, the production company behind Big Brother, argue that participants engage in the project, which is categorised as ‘reality, entertainment’, in a ‘fully informed’ manner. In fact, they provide the following information on their website
“Twelve people, who've never met before, are suddenly catapulted into the Big Brother house where they must share every minute of the next 100 days. In their fenced-off compound they're denied any contact with their loved ones, and the outside world. No phones, newspapers, radios or televisions. They're all alone... except for the millions watching and judging their every move. Cameras and microphones are placed all over the house. Everything the housemates do is recorded and broadcast on television and the internet. They can't eat, sleep or chill out without the nation clocking their every move. Yet somehow, the residents are desperate to stay in the Big Brother house. All the pain and embarrassment is worth the prospect of landing the title of Big Brother winner. All the stress of knowing that at any moment your housemates could be trying to kick you out! On a regular basis, the housemates must nominate two or more of their fellow participants for eviction, but the viewers ultimately decide who has to leave. The last participant to leave the house wins the programme, and the huge cash prize that comes with it.” (Endemol, 2009)
Taking into account that any potential participant who applies for the show can gain free and easy access to recorded data of previous shows which was launched in 2001, for instance via Wikipedia and Youtube, the degree of...