Mark Andrejevic, a University of Iowa associate professor of communications studies, said having reality show contestants on the brink allows series producers to better control how the show progresses, The New York Times reported Sunday.
"The bread and butter of reality television is to get people into a state where they are tired, stressed and emotionally vulnerable," said Andrejevic, who also wrote "Reality TV: The Work of Being Watched."
Jen Yemola, who competed on the Fox reality series "Hell's Kitchen" in 2007, said she felt like a prisoner when forced to spend several days in a hotel room prior to the start of filming.
"They took all my books, my CDs, my phone, any newspapers. I was allowed to leave the room only with an escort. It was like I was in prison," Yemola told the Times of show organizers.