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Psychology

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Talk Show Tension Jerry, Jerry, Jerry... Everyday, this chant is heard by millions of people watching the now infamous talk show, Jerry Springer. Even though just a few years ago, most people regarded these shows as ridiculous, now this chant is recognized and adored by many people in society. The most parsimonious explanation for this is that the shows now have more interesting and captivating topics. The premise of most episodes of these shows has changed greatly over the past few years; The topics have moved away from large scale social issues, like homosexuality and cancer, to relationship and familial issues, like adultery and mothers who are too flirtatious with their daughter's boyfriends. Many people would argue that the issues being presented now are not as interesting or captivating as the older issues. However, after watching an old episode and a new episode, most people agree that the emotions displayed by the guests in the newer shows are more visible, with actions such as onstage yelling and fighting. The general emotional content of the episodes has changed from sadness to anger. From a psychological standpoint, there are many influences that cause extreme anger to be displayed by the guests on talk shows. Imagine being a guest on the Jerry Springer show, as you walk onto the stage you see the large audience chanting those infamous words. You sit down next to your fiancйe not knowing what to expect, you are nervous and anxious. Finally, Jerry says those terrible words, So, don't you have something to tell your fiancй? She turns to you, looks into your eyes and says, Remember about a month ago when I disappeared at that party at your house? Well, that night your brother and me left the party early. I'm sorry, I have been sleeping with your brother for the past month. Suddenly, the anxiousness that you experienced is gone and replaced by anger, intense anger. You turn to Jerry as he asks you, Wow, she has been cheating with your brother, how does this make you feel? Your anger only gets more intense, you ramble to your ex-fiancйe and ask her how she could do such a thing. Again, Jerry interrupts the moment and yells into the microphone, Alright lets get the brother out here! As you see your brother walk through the door, you again hear that irritating chant echoing through the crowd. You jump to your feet and go after your brother, within seconds you are pulled away by security guards and forced to return to this humiliating situation. Soon enough, you are too angry to talk, you simply scream obscenities at your brother and ex-fiancйe. It seems like every word Jerry says makes you angrier and angrier, and all the while Jerry Springer's ratings are soaring through the roof. There are many psychological explanations for this increasing anger experienced by the guests on a talk show. It is a well-known psychological observation that questions can be phrased in different ways eliciting different responses. A study conducted by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman displayed that the same question phrased in two different ways to the same person can receive two different results. Interviews or surveys often use this framing effect to try to get the response that is more favorable for the interviewer or surveyor. Based on this discovery, it is reasonable to assume that the framing of a question can also affect the emotional response that is elicited by the subject. Knowing that there is a strong correlation between the anger of his guests and the ratings he receives, Jerry Springer can use this framing effect to his advantage. By framing questions in a certain way, Jerry can intensify the anger of his guests. Often, when Jerry asks a question to his guests, he tends to include words with strong negative connotations. For instance, in a topic like the one presented above, Jerry tries to use words like cheating, sneaking and lying. Jerry also phrases the question in such a way to evoke anger in his guests. He typically asks questions like, Can you believe that your fiancйe and your brother would go behind your back like that? The question is framed in such a way that any answer given to it would evoke or intensify anger. A no answer increases the feeling of surprise and causes the guest to think to himself, How could they do such a thing? A yes answer could mean that the guest may have noticed something going on between his fiancйe and brother before the show. Yet, it is more likely that the guest has fallen prey to hindsight bias. Hindsight bias is the inclination to remember things in a certain way based on information obtained later. So, in this situation the guest, now knowing that his fiancйe is cheating, will remember anything that seemed awkward in the weeks approaching the show. Although these moments may not have been very common, they will now stick out in the guest's mind. The guest will tend to recreate many of his memories of the past few months based on this new information.

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