Twenty-five women. One man. Eight million viewers. ABC’s “The Bachelor” is a spectacle that the public can’t seem to resist. The show is a barrage of theatrics and conflicts, all in the name of love. Each season introduces the bachelor, usually the second or third runner-up on a previous season of “The Bachelorette,” and a new group of 25 women. The goal is for a series of dates to help the bachelor narrow down the 25 participants to one woman he chooses to marry. This concept is conducive to a very competitive spirit among the women; they are all there to win, and many will do whatever it takes. In attempts to leave a memorable first impression, women have been known to fake Australian accents, wear a sloth costume or literally flip out of the limo that brings them to the Bachelor mansion. Among viewers, there is a large population who watch the show simply to poke fun at the outrageous behavior.
They thrive when observing what most would consider to be the worst, most uncomfortable moments of the show. What is it about this show that draws people in even when they are fully aware of its ridiculousness? Why are humans so instinctively drawn to the painful drama and tears that ensue on screen? This phenomenon can be explained by a psychological study done by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The experiment explored human curiosity surrounding negative events and attempted to reason through the origins of that curiosity. According to the NLM, a person’s curiosity arises in an attempt to close an “‘information gap’ between what they want to know and what they currently know.” The scientists provide subjects with a brief view of two images, one negative and one neutral, and ask them which image they would like to see again. The results showed that the subjects more often passed over the neutral image in favor of the negative.
This is a result of the human desire to close the information gap. More of the test subjects have likely experienced a neutral situation, so they have a stronger desire to explore the negative stimuli that will further their understanding of the world. This is referred to as “morbid fascination.” The instinctual attempt of people to further their standing of the world applies to experiences as well, such as the emotional, romantic competition found in “The Bachelor.” People watch the show not because it is relatable, not because it is realistic but because it is so far from what viewers will experience in their own life that it allows them to close that information gap.
The average person does not know what it feels like to be placed with 25 other women in a competitive environment for one man’s hand in marriage or to be a single man attempting to sort through those women for the perfect match. Watching others go through that experience, however much as it is ridiculed, quells our instinctive curiosity and explains America’s widespread fascination with “The Bachelor.”