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Big Brother US Season 18Looking again at the deviant dynamics evident in the Big Brother is opportune at the moment as the long-running reality TV show is currently broadcasting its 18th season in the US and 17th season in the UK. Of course, it should be mentioned upfront that the dynamics in the two houses differs somewhat as it is dictated by different voting and competition dynamics. But, there are still plenty of similarities that sometimes provide exciting entertainment. Although, at times, one has to wonder whether the over-the-top deviancy in the famous houses reflects social dynamics outside or the other way around.

Who Decides?

In addition to a reliance of mental and physical prowess needed to get power and protection in the Los Angeles Big Brother house, participants are voted out by their fellow housemates. In the Hertfordshire house, on the other hand, housemates nominate, but the public has the final say of who leaves from the nominees. This system was somewhat mixed up in the current UK series, but who wins are still in the hands of viewers. This explanation is necessary as it determines the objective of participants.

Alliances and Showmances

Where alliances are commonplace in the US, these are avoided in the UK-based game, for the simple reason that the omnipresent viewing public, decides on participants’ fates and alliance-forming as part of overt gameplay is arguably not viewed in a favorable light. In both versions, romantic liaisons don’t often fair well as they present kind of an unfair threat.

Calculating and Scheming

The game favors someone who is calculating and scheming without being too obvious. They best have an impulse control that is manageable to their advantage. Consequences of all actions are considered beforehand. Although some behavior may appear spontaneous, the risk of it really being that way, is just too great. Honesty and loyalty only apply to the extent that it starts to reflect poorly on the competitor in the eyes of whoever is making decisions at the time. The ability to manipulate and exploit others in subtle ways is also useful to get far in the game.

Then, the capacity to adjust one’s attitude and responses to the demands of the house and viewers is a definite advantage. Big Brother producers deliberately throw participants together and use staging tactics to disrupt the balance and complacency in the controlled space. There are always others bound to rub you the wrong way and unexpected situations designed to elicit extreme responses. So, flexibility and the ability to think under pressure are beneficial qualities.

Floaters, Grab your Life Vests

Floaters, generally don’t fair too well in the game either, although every season has its fair share. If the public decides, they are likely to be deemed boring and forgettable. If housemates decide, they will only be used to make up voting numbers, but are guaranteed not to get the votes in the end. So, it takes a confident, calculating, robust and flashy personality mixed with a measure of restraint to trick oneself into the hearts and minds of fellow housemates and viewers.

Self-Insight and Social Cues

Another important aspect is self-insight. One often sees that the first few to be voted out appear over-confident, misguidedly believing that they have power, support, and qualities that don’t exist. Therefore, ideally, a good competitor has to be able to read social cues accurately and continuously monitor interactions, which requires a healthy dose of paranoia.

So, we look at characteristics of paranoia, self-confidence, scheming, “flexible” loyalty and honesty, and a self-image obsession to compete well in Big Brother. These are the hallmarks traits of a dark personality. As long as these features are not so over the top that restraint, insight, and impulse control are compromised too much, such a competitor could do well in the Big Brother game.

Joan Swart, PsyD

Joan Swart, PsyD

Forensic Psychologist | Business Developer at Open Forest LLC
Joan is a forensic psychologist, lecturer, and author of “Treating Adolescents with Family-Based Mindfulness” published by Springer in 2015 and “Homicide: A Forensic Psychology Casebook” published by CRC Press in 2016. She is a business developer at Open Forest LLC. Open Forest LLC provides online psychoeducation and self-help programs aimed at improving many conditions, including depression, anxiety, ADHD, and mindfulness.
Joan Swart, PsyD


Forensic psychologist, #narcissist, #psychopath, other PDs | Business developer at | #pug lover | masters #powerlifting
Joan Swart, PsyD
Joan Swart, PsyD

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