Psychologists in trouble for 'Big Brother'

THe Show
Big Brother, the "social experiment" that mixes voyeurism with prime-time TV, is to come under scrutiny itself after a complaint that two psychologists on the hit programme have broken their ethical code.

THe Show Big Brother, the "social experiment" that mixes voyeurism with prime-time TV, is to come under scrutiny itself after a complaint that two psychologists on the hit programme have broken their ethical code.

The British Psychological Society confirmed yesterday that it is investigating allegations that two university professors are guilty of professional misconduct by involving themselves with the Channel 4 production.

The move follows a claim that Professor Peter Collett, of Oxford University, and Professor Geoffrey Beattie, of Manchester University, are legitimising the "exploitation" of the programme's contestants. An "investigatory committee" will now be set up by the society to decide whether there is any substance to the complaint.

Both academics appear on the show once a week to offer on-camera analysis of the behaviour of the 10 "captive" contestants in the show whose every movement is recorded by security cameras.

Professor Collett also acts as a consultant to the programme, providing general psychological guidance to the producers, Bazal. Neither of the two psychologists has any direct involvement with the competitors.

The 10-week series, which began last month, follows the daily life of five men and five women in a secure communal living space, with one contestant being evicted every week.

Viewers saw their first eviction on Friday as Sada Walkington, 27, lost her chance to win the £70,000 to be awarded to the last person left in the secret north London compound.

The programme has achieved large audiences, in excess of 5 million viewers on some nights, despite a panning from the critics.

But a formal letter of complaint from a Glasgow sociologist that the programme could ultimately damage its contestants is threatening to tarnish the show's carefully constructed appeal.

Dr David Miller, research director at the media research iunstitute at Stirling University, said: "What we are seeing night after night is a game show, not a serious attempt to explore human nature.

"What's more, the participants are themselves being placed under enormous stress that could lead to long-termdifficulties. These two professors are lending credibility toa crass and exploitative gimmick." Dr Miller said he believed the two academics had committed a "serious breach of ethical behaviour" and broken the code of conduct set out by the society in 1985. The society declined to comment on the details of the complaint but confirmed it would investigate.

During the run-up to last week's eviction vote by viewers and competitors, there was clear evidence of the stress on Sada and another participant, Caroline, after they were shortlisted to leave. Caroline was seen lying on her bed crying, while Sada vowed to leave in any event.

Professor Beattie expressed surprise at the complaint. "I'm astonished at the basis for the complaint," he said. "It's like saying it is a breach of ethics to interpret a politician's hand gestures. I have no direct contact with the participants."

Bazal Productions, the company making Big Brother, highlighted the safeguards built in to protect the participants.

A spokesman said: "Each of the contestants has been psychologically screened and they are fully aware of what Big Brother involves. There is a team of counsellors and a psychiatrist available at all times. We have set up a stringent safety net that many other programmes lack."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Social Media Account Writers

£12000 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This social media management pr...

Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor (Magazine Publishing) - Wimbledon - £23-26K

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor - Wimbledon...

Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publishing) - Wimbledon - £26-30K

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publish...

Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago