THE BACHELOR: THE SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY EXPERIMENT THAT WORKS LIKE A CHARM~

Image taken from digitalfiles.com

Image taken from digitalfiles.com

There’s no question that Sean Lowe, America’s most recent Bachelor, seems like a great catch.  He’s good looking, well spoken, appears to be sincere, claims to value integrity and character above all else, etc.  In light of all his positive traits, it makes sense to me that some women would find him attractive, and it also makes sense to me that some women would even fall in love with him and want to marry him.  However, it doesn’t make sense to me at all that every single female contestant that gets on the show ends up falling in love with him.  The odds of this seem happening to one mere mortal guy seems astronomically low.  So, I ask myself, how come every time a new bachelor shows up on our television sets to find his potential wife, every single woman flocks to him, fawns all over him, and falls deeply in love with him in a matter of weeks?

I think I have the answer.  With all due respect to Sean Lowe, it isn’t him at all that’s causing these ladies to fall head over heels in love with him.  Its the culture of the show, and the way the show’s  producers deliberately and pre-metitatively use social psychology to entrance these women into believing that their season’s bachelor is the Chosen One.  The truth is, the moment the women get out of their limousines to greet their prince charming, they’ve set out on a hypnotic journey full of symbols and metaphors that are intended to get them to fall in love with their man as quickly as possible.  In addition, other psychological forces are at play that get the women in deeper and deeper over their heads, and what’s sad is that the women have no idea that their emotions are being manipulated by a bunch of reality T.V. head honchos.

For starters, when the women first meet the bachelor, he’s there to greet them in front of a mansion with roses in hand.  Women naturally associate a mansion with power and wealth, and it’s fair to say that most women find power and wealth very attractive.  Soon after their brief meeting outside of the mansion, the women are given champagne, which is another symbol of decadence, sophistication, wealth, etc.  Inside the mansion are fireplaces and candles, which women associate with warmth, romance, and masculine charm.  Finally, at the end of the first evening, the bachelor gives out roses to the women he’d like to get to know better.  Women of course love roses, and they associate them with romance, passion, and love.  Alas, unbeknownst to the women, they’re already in the process of making an unconscious link (Anchor) between their bachelor and their own seductive longings for power, wealth, opulence, sophistication, warmth, romance, charm, passion, and love.  The bachelor has become an archetype for the perfect gentlemen, a prince if you will.

The producers of the Bachelor surely know that most women start off as young, impressionable girls reading fairy tales that kindle their dreams to one day find their prince charming.  They also know that these girls also long to one day become princesses.  With this awareness in mind, the producers present the women the seductive vision of a real life prince standing before their very eyes in front of a castle-like mansion, and they give these ladies the persuasive impression that if they win their bachelor’s heart, their dream of becoming a princess and leading a fairy tale life may soon become their reality.

In addition to creating this intoxicating link between the bachelor and all things rich and royal, the producers of the show seem well aware of the psychological concept known as social proofing.”  Social proofing essentially describes when people unconsciously engage in a herd mentality.  If someone who is perceived to be knowledgeable or credible strongly believes something, everyone else follows suit.  This happens a lot in the stock market, for example.  If a well known investor like Warren Buffet, for example, says with conviction that America is entering into a bull market and it’s time to buy stocks, droves of ambivalent investors will follow his lead.  This is because a man like Warren Buffet is highly esteemed, and he’s become a credible source to turn to for direction throughout the years.  Most of the time he’s managed the winds of the market well, so investors worldwide are willing to blindly follow his lead for this reason alone.  In the case of the Bachelor, the show’s producers have rolled out the red carpet and told the world that their bachelor is highly desirable.  They’ve deemed him special, and they have concluded that he is the ultimate prize for any lady seeking love.

The Bachelor is a credible show, and most people who tune in to watch it assume the producers of the show must know something about their chosen man that they don’t.  Alas, social proof is in securely in place.  When the women meet their bachelor, they already believe that he’s the highest of the high hanging fruit.  He’s the ultimate prize, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  It only makes sense then that their hearts flutter within seconds of meeting him.  And it only makes sense that they find themselves falling in love with him within days.

There’s another psychological factor at play on the bachelor that compels the female contestants to fall in love with their chosen one so soon after meeting him.  It’s called “confirmation bias.”  Confirmation bias happens when someone believes something to such a degree that they’ll actively disregard any information that contradicts their fixed belief.  If these girls believe that their bachelor is the ultimate prize, then they’re going to ignore the fact he’s kissing 5 or 6 other girls on the very same night.  They’ll also choose to ignore the fact he may be having sex with the last 3 remaining women in the fantasy suites within days of their own sexual encounter with him.  In addition, they will choose to ignore red flags like he may be emotionally immature, self-preoccupied, etc.  I’ve often found it interesting that the bachelor takes his women on dates that he would like, without much consideration for whether or not his date would like it.  He’ll have her repel down a jagged rock face, eat rancid insects,  or plunge into freezing water, for example.  He’ll say these activities are designed to build trust, of course.  He’ll also say that they serve as metaphors because relationships often have downturns when you feel like you’re repelling backwards or plunging into cold water.  It’s important, he’ll say, that he and his date can weather these metaphorical storms to build trust, connection, etc.

The truth is, however, that most women would rather not repel down a cliff, eat unsavory insects, or endure freezing water to prove their worth to their date.  It’s because of confirmation bias, however, that they’re willing to subject themselves to any and all kinds emotional torture to win the approval and affections of this very special man.  It doesn’t even occur to them that their bachelor is being awfully self-centered.  Just because he’s adventurous and likes to rock climb or plunge into cold water doesn’t mean that she shares his same interests.  When most women have their head’s on straight, they’d ditch that date right after it got started!!  But in their minds their handsome bachelor can do no wrong.  They’re mired in confirmation bias, and nothing he does will dispel them from their belief that he’s every woman’s fantasy.

Another way the show, The Bachelor, manipulates their women to fall in love quickly with their bachelor is to introduce the psychology of  “human competition” into the equation.  It’s no secret to anybody, least of all the women on the show, that they’re competing for their bachelor’s heart.  First of all, most people who compete would much rather win than lose.  Winning means to the victor that she’s the prettiest and most charming woman of them all.  Her ego gets a huge lift, and the answer she gets to her “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, whose the fairest of them all” question is simply music to her ears.  The losers of the Bachelor competition, on the other hand, generally feel like rejects and failures.  They’re left feeling  inadequate and worthless.  This very phenomenon explains why almost every woman that gets eliminated from the Bachelor whimpers and cries during her limousine ride back to the hotel where she will be asked to promptly pack her bags and leave the premises as soon as humanly possible.  As she’s crying, she’ll inevitably wonder out loud, “What did I do wrong?”  “Why wasn’t I good enough for him?”  “What did the other girls have that I didn’t?”  These types of thoughts and feelings cut through each woman’s heart like a knife.  To avoid this pain, each female competitor sets out to win.  After all, they equate associate losing with deep pain and winning with great pleasure.

Like in every competition, there are certain rules you must follow and criteria you must meet  in order to emerge victorious.  In the case of the Bachelor, the women must generally follow the following implicit rules in order to stand a chance of winning the bachelor’s heart:  She must demonstrate vulnerability, depth of emotion, physical affection,  and an open heart and soul.  And she must demonstrate the aforementioned as quickly as possible, because she’s up against other women who will gladly bear their souls at the drop of a hat to move onto the next rose ceremony and avoid the dreaded pain of losing.  Within days each woman is rushing the romantic process to outpace her peers on her race to cross the finish line and claim her prize:  The Bachelor. In this rush mode, she’s sharing with the Bachelor her greatest fears, her past traumas, her life dreams, her family history, her weaknesses, her strengths, etc.  She’s even sharing with him secrets she’s never shared with anyone else ever before because she really, really wants to win this competition and feel good about herself, and it makes her nauseous to think of how she’ll feel about herself if she loses.  What happens, though, when a woman shares these kinds of thoughts and feelings with a man is that her heart invariably opens.  She feels heard, validated, and connected.  If she shares these deep thoughts and feelings with a man at an accelerated pace, it’s only inevitable that she’s going to fall in love with him.

There’s one last psychological phenomenon that I’d like to touch on to support my hypothesis that the women are more or less programmed to fall in love with their season’s bachelor.  This phenomenon has to do with “unconscious mimicry.”  Essentially, human emotions are contagious.  Human motivation is contagious too.  That’s how come you’re more likely to get into a frenzy when you sit next to other frenzied football fans at a football game.  It’s also how come you’re more likely to laugh out loud when you’re sitting besides others who are laughing out loud while watching a comedy at a movie theater vs. when you’re sitting at home watching the same comedy on your couch.  Finally, it’s how come you’re more likely to work really hard at your job if you’re surrounded by co-workers who are really driven and hard working too.  In light of this, imagine now that you have 25 women who are falling in love with one man.  Given that emotions are contagious, just imagine how one woman’s lust for her bachelor emotionally affects the women around her.  Like the flu, her lust is going to spread, and the other women around her are going to catch what she’s feeling.  Pretty soon all the women have caught the love bug, and the bachelor can’t turn any of them away even if he tried.  Night after night, he offers a lucky woman a red rose, and each and every time she blushes and says, “Of course I’ll accept this rose.”

Image taken from colourose.com

Image taken from colourose.com

I wonder if the bachelor himself has any idea that while he may be a great guy, it’s not his princely charms that were causing every woman on the show to fall in love with him.  It had far more to do with the psychological spell and hypnotic trance that the participants on the show fell under than anything else.  I personally doubt that he had a clue.   It’s more likely that he momentarily forgets who he really is, and he merrily buys into the notion that he really is the cat’s meow.  That is,  until his season of the Bachelor finally comes to a close,  and at least half the women he goes on first dates with in the real world think he’s just alright and politely decline to go out with him again.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post!!

John Boesky, LMFT

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