Talking to the camera: Measuring the impact of direct address in reality programming on parasocial interaction
Bennett, Michelle A.
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Parasocial interaction, or PSI, has been an area of interest for media scholars in recent years. This phenomenon examines the way that an audience develops a connection with characters that they see in the media. With the growth of reality television over the past decade, research in PSI and reality television has not been fully explored. This research attempts to examine if the use of certain structural features within reality television, such as the use of direct address, can play a role in the way individuals develop a parasocial relationship. This study sought to determine if the use of direct address in reality television programming helped foster PSI and identification more so than programs without direct address. It also examined the relationships between media enjoyment and PSI as well as identification and PSI. One hundred and eighteen participants completed an experiment where they watched clips from a reality television show that altered the use of direct address and then completed a questionnaire about what they watched. Analysis of the data concluded that direct address did not significantly impact the formation of PSI or identification. However, the formation of both PSI and identification with a character on the show made enjoyment of the programming more likely.