During its run in the local media, Love Island was a guilty pleasure for a lot of people. In fact, 239,000 people tuned in to watch the show’s finale. We got drawn into the Love Island vortex and decided it would be fascinating to examine it psychologically. What motivates the participants’ behaviour? What lessons do they teach us? And most importantly, What does the research indicate about the show?

Managing Stress

The Love Island competitors appear to find the entire process to be incredibly stressful. ‘Recoupling’ is one of the major sources of stress and a frequent topic of discussion. Recoupling is the process through which participants learn whether they will be partnered with another competitor or eliminated from the competition. Why, therefore, do people find this procedure to be so stressful? Uncertainty has been identified as one of the leading causes of stress, according to a University College London study. The uncertainty of not knowing what will happen is what truly stresses people out. 

Delayed gratification

In order to avoid getting eliminated from Love Island, some competitors appear to partner up quickly—almost with the first person they encounter. Others, in search of ‘the one,’ choose a riskier but longer-term strategy and wait for new competitors to enter the competition. This is reminiscent of ‘the marshmallow experiment,’ one of the most well-known psychological studies. Young students were given the option to consume one marshmallow immediately or two marshmallows later in the experiment. Those who waited longer eventually performed better academically, had stronger relationships, and achieved greater job success. Indeed, everyone would benefit from exercising self-control. 

Jealousy and fear of failure

Have you noticed that some of the Love Island participants only appear to start genuinely liking someone when someone else expresses interest in them? According to research on the psychology of emotion, known causes of jealousy include poor self-esteem, emotional instability, insecurity, dependence, feelings of inadequacy, and fear about the future.

One of the elements that makes young people have a high fear of failing is worrying about the future. Shame and embarrassment, disappointing others, and not being of interest to others are some more causes. High levels of failure anxiety might keep people from doing their best work. This may be addressed by concentrating on what one can control, viewing failures as learning experiences, and not bottling up one’s emotions.

Final remarks

It is generally a good idea to take what you see on any reality show with more than just a pinch of salt. The tension might not always exist. However, it is intriguing to learn why people find events stressful or how to get through doubts and the fear of failing. Now that you are aware of the psychology of Love Island and what it can teach us about how to succeed in both education and everyday life, you can decide whether you are a fan of the show or a cynic who just loves seeing gorgeous people say silly things.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Charlot Cauchi is a Gestalt Psychotherapist at Willingness. He has experience working with adult clients with mental health difficulties, anxiety and depression, loss and grief, traumatic experiences, stress and relational issues.


de Berker, A.O., Rutledge, R.B., Mathys, C., Marshall, L., Cross, G.F., Dolan, R.J., & Bestmann, S. (2016). Computations of uncertainty mediate acute stress responses in humans. Nature  Communications. 7:10996 doi: 10.1038/ncomms10996