Love Island And Your Brain: It Is What It Is. Or Is It?

Your Brain On Love Island

Article At A Glance

We’ll discuss how watching Love Island can:

  • Teach you how not to treat a partner
  • Persuade your brain to get a fake tan
  • Be a motivating booster
  • Make you self-deprecating
  • Result in different effects for men and women

Love Island is the hottest thing to hit our screens since Blind Date. And it’s increasing in popularity year after year. To say people watch it religiously is an understatement, in fact Love Island fans invested in two and a half days of their time watching the 2018 series and tabloids predict an even longer stint for the 2019 ITV hit show. How long is Love Island on for? 56 days!! That’s almost ⅙ of a year watching Caroline Flack et al shmooze, booze and choose (a partner) in the Love Island villa. Crikey! It doesn’t stop there. When the show isn’t on, fans are swarming online to The Daily Mail to lap up the juicy Love Island gossip out of hours.

As with all reality TV shows, a wheelbarrow full of salt is needed whilst watching, because much of what is shown is heavily doctored and edited by the producers. Even if you are aware of the false realities of the award-winning show, it’s still shocking to see the potentially damaging effects that watching reality shows like Love Island can have on your brain and cognitive function.

Alas, there are some positive effects too (we aren’t turning completely Piers Morgan on you), and this article will look at both sides of the reality TV coin. So whether you’re obsessed with surfer Lucie Donlan, infatuated with Scientist Yewande Biala or intrigued by Anton Danyluk (and his sensational eyebrows,) then this article will be your type on paper… or on screen.

Watching Love Island will teach you how NOT to treat a partner

The image is of a paper heart torn in two down the middle and hanging on string. It depicts the fact you can learn from reality shows such as the 2019 hit ITV series of Love Island. How not to treat a partner in a relationship is this specific example.

Let’s go back to 2018. Adam Collard has gained the reputation of “Love Island snake” after dating and dumping numerous contestants, including Rosie Williams. With such an obvious lack of care for Rosie, he tosses her aside like an unwanted and used Love Island water bottle.

His behaviour was so bad that charities started speaking up and naming his behaviour as “gas lighting.” What is “gas lighting?” It’s a form of psychologically manipulating someone’s mind into questioning their own sanity. Of course there are times when the Love Island cast question themselves, such as Molly Mae Hague admitting she didn’t want to kiss Tommy Fury as she was “a little bit confused,” but questioning yourself as a result of gas lighting is much more damaging.

A study aptly named, Love Island: Adam shows teenagers how not to treat romantic partners, highlighted that seeing such harmful behaviour on Love Island can tap into the ‘rights and wrongs’ area of the brain and shows teens what behaviours aren’t acceptable.

The huge negative media reaction to Adam’s behaviour also emphasised to teens how his conduct was poor. With many sites offering support to teens and adults with advice-laden articles such as “how to spot gas lighting in a relationship.”

So is Love Island a series we can learn how not to behave from? Maybe. It depends on the viewer and their ability to differentiate between what’s right and what’s wrong, which isn’t always easy.

For example if Amy Hart and Curtis Pritchard started displaying negative relationship behaviours, it would depend on the Love Island fan’s perception, past experiences and moral compass as to whether they view the couple as functioning positively or negatively.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD who specialises in Cardiology and Cardiovascular Disease discusses how some researchers have found that the left frontal lobe and temporal lobes can be activated when making moral judgments and if part of this “neural circuitry is injured, our morality can also be impaired.” So the state of your brain’s lobes can have a direct effect on your “moral compass.” Dr. Mehmet Oz goes onto mention how “women appear to access this part of the brain more than men.” Does this therefore mean that men who watch the new series of Love Island are less aware of displays of bad behaviour and therefore are more likely to mimic these actions in their own lives? Perhaps.

Watching Love Island will persuade your brain to get a fake tan

The image is of two women lying on a beach on towels, soaking in the sun rays and getting a tan. The image supports the scientific research that watching shows like the 2019 hit ITV series of Love Island can encourage you to a get tan.

There’s no doubt that watching handfuls of swimwear-clad future celebs on the TV will have an affect on your own perception of your body: consciously or subconsciously. Whether you check your teeth out in the mirror to see how white they are (cue 2018’s Love Island winners Dani Dyer and Jack Fincham’s mega-white teeth,) or maybe you looked at the definition of your quad muscles for the first time ever. Small and new body “checks” like these may be a side-effect of watching the show.

A niche study named, Watching reality television beauty shows is associated with tanning lamp use and outdoor tanning among college students found that 12.9% of those students who watched reality shows like Love Island used tanning lamps/beds in comparison to 3.7% of the group who didn’t watch them. And 43.3% of those who watched them tanned outdoors in comparison to 28.7% of those who tanned outdoors who didn’t watch it. These stats are strong evidence for the impact Love Island can have on your cognitive and physical health.

In contrast to these findings a study named, Positive Side of Social Comparison on Social Network Sites: How Envy Can Drive Inspiration on Instagram focused on the potential beneficial aspects for cognitive health such apps and shows can have. The study states that negative effect research has “neglected two important aspects: (a) comparison processes can also elicit a beneficial emotional reaction to other users’ (b) comparisons can be motivating, with positive outcomes for well-being.”

Could these reality shows act as motivation to get in shape? Or push you to find a better job? After analysing 385 Instagram users they found that social comparisons on Instagram were “positively related to inspiration… Furthermore, inspiration on Instagram was related to increased positive affect.” Maybe comparing oneself with people on TV and social media is a healthy activity after all? We aren’t entirely convinced…

Sexualised Love Island may make you self-deprecate

A person is looking into the reflection of a puddle to depict self-deprecation after watching reality shows such as the 2019 hit ITV series of Love Island.

What is self deprecation? In short: self-criticism.

Do sexualised reality shows like Love Island encourage self-deprecating thoughts? A recent scientific study showed that exposure to sexualising reality TV corresponded to fluctuations in the importance the study participants attached to their appearance. In other words, by watching episode 3 of Love Island and seeing contestants like Michael Griffiths in his skinny white jeans or Anna Vakili in a drop-dead-red jumpsuit, you may find you start critising your own appearance and questioning your “sex appeal.”  

A further study looked at the effects of reality shows like Love Island on girls aged 11 to 17. Their findings were both positive and negative:

Positive: “Reality television viewing was positively related to increased self-esteem and expectations of respect in dating relationships.”  Great!

Negative:  “However, watching reality television also was related to an increased focus on appearance and willingness to compromise other values for fame.” Not so great.

When it comes to men watching Love Island, there is a significant cognitive impact. Studies have shown that young men who view reality TV shows are exposed to an “unrepresentative muscular ideal.” Think back to comedy Love Island duo Chris and Kem; their bodies were trained to the ultimate peak. And now with contestants such as Sherif Lanre and Tommy Fury (Tyson Fury’s boxing brother,) Love Island fans’ perceptions of a muscular ideal are being swayed by this unrepresentative muscular form. The study found that a vast majority of reality TV shows broadcast “more muscular (men), with lower levels of body fat, than average U.S. men.” Think about it, if you’re watching a show for 56+ days, your brain will soon start to become accustomed to these physiques and start to see them as ‘normal.’ And when your physique doesn’t match up, frustration and self-deprecation comes into play.  

So is it worth watching Love Island?

A woman is sitting in her bed looking down at her Apple Mac. She's watching the 2019 hit ITV series of Love Island.

It’s fun, exciting, full of laughs and keeps you entertained all summer long, however the negative influence shows like Love Island can have on your thoughts and feelings might outweigh the good.

If you do make it all the way to the 2019 Love Island final, it may be worth reminding yourself to take a step back and assess whether your thinking has been affected by the show. And if you think it has, it’ll be worth spending some time on realigning your thoughts and getting back to the real reality that is life.

Love Island: It is what it is. Or is it?

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Sources Cited:

11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting | Psychology Today UK…and…/11-warning-signs-gaslighting

Maisie Bygraves

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