The study appears in July's edition of the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
The researchers included John Persing, MD, of the plastic surgery section of Yale University's medical school.
They gave surveys to 42 people who were considering getting plastic surgery for the first time at Yale University's plastic surgery clinic. Most of the patients were women; on average, they were in their mid-30s.
In the surveys, participants noted how often they watched plastic surgery reality TV shows including Extreme Makeover,TheSwan, I Want a Famous Face, Plastic Surgery: Before and After, Dr. 90210, and Miami Slice.
More than half of the patients -- 57% -- reported frequently watching those shows. Only 12% said they had never seen plastic surgery reality TV shows.
"Overall, four out of five patients reported that television influenced them to pursue a cosmetic procedure, with nearly one-third feeling 'very much' or 'moderately' influenced," write the researchers.
Patients who frequently watched plastic surgery reality TV shows gave themselves higher ratings for knowledge about plastic surgery than people who rarely watched those TV shows. The only area that they didn't claim to know much about was the cost of plastic surgery.
Were frequent viewers of plastic surgery reality TV shows actually more knowledgeable about plastic surgery, or did they just think they were? That's not clear. They weren't quizzed on facts about plastic surgery.
Frequent viewers of plastic surgery reality TV shows also tended to think those TV shows were "somewhat similar" to real life, while other people rated those shows as "not very similar" to real life.
It's not clear if the findings reflect the views of other potential patients for first-time cosmetic surgery.