Psychologists in TV programmes
Psychologists can be involved in television programmes in a number of different ways, both on and off camera.
By using psychologists who are members of the British Psychological Society, production companies can be assured the expert they are utilising has in-depth training and qualifications in psychology and has signed up to a set of Member Conduct Rules.
Our Media Database for journalists gives details on how to get in touch with more than 600 media-friendly psychologists.
Roles on TV for Psychologists
Whatever role the psychologist performs, the key is to involve them early in the process. Production companies who factor in ample time will most probably find the most appropriate psychologist.
As the expert in their area, psychologists are in a position to offer the very latest insights and ideas. If they are approached early in the process (rather than when a programme has already been commissioned or is in production) they may be able to suggest different angles or inspiration.
It is also important to involve psychologists at the beginning of the process so they can advise production companies whether or not the programme idea is supported by evidence. Psychologists use evidence to underpin everything they do, so problems occur if they are asked to be part of programme that is based on an assumption that the evidence does not support.
Involving a psychologist early in the process also helps to flag up any potential problem areas, including ethical implications, before too much time is invested in a project.
Research and advice
Psychologists can also be involved in more in-depth research, citing studies or theories that may be of use. They can also offer suggestions as to how tasks might be carried out or environments might be changed to make them more accessible or suitable for television.
Selection and screening of participants
Psychologists, and more specifically clinical or counselling psychologists, are able to assess the mental well being of people who could potentially become involved in television programmes. They carry out clinical assessment using methods including psychological tests, interviews and direct observation of behaviour.
Psychologists can work behind the scenes to ensure the well-being of participants. They can discuss with the participants the implications of taking part and make sure each individual gives informed consent. They can also take responsibility for the mental health of the participants and/or crew while the programme is being made and be a willing and understanding person to speak to once the programme has concluded.
Exactly the same role as above can be filled by the psychologist who appears on-camera as the psychologist who is involved behind the scenes. The on-camera psychologist will ensure the well-being of participants although the on-camera psychologist's actions will of course be filmed. However, there are times when it is necessary to have a separation between what is said to a psychologist in public (on-camera) and what is said in private (off-camera).
Psychology is the study of the mind and behaviour so it covers more or less everything we do in everyday life. Therefore, psychologists are often able to provide psychological insights into every day behaviours and thought processes. They can analyse footage or be interviewed as a 'talking head' However, psychologists specialise in particular areas of psychology when they undertake their postgraduate qualifications and training so are not qualified to talk in-depth about all areas.
While psychologists are respected academics or practitioners they are also very enthusiastic about their subject and so can make great presenters. This is helped by the fact that most are used to presenting psychology in a non-scientific way meaning they can make it accessible to television audiences.
It is unlikely that a psychologist will want to be involved in presenting a programme if they have been involved in selection or are offering support.
To help production companies understand the ethical implications for psychologists the Society has produced a set of guidelines: