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Explanations for the attraction to celebrities- parasocial relationships
A parasocial relationship is an entirely one sided relationship between two people in which
one person feels strongly attached emotionally to the other person, who is typically
unaware of the existence of the first person.
These are the types of relationships fans have with celebrities. The fan knows a lot about the
celebrity and has some degree of emotional commitment to the celebrity, but the celebrity
knows nothing about the fan.
When the relationship is threatened this makes the person experience negative emotions.
Egal and Cohen tested this idea by assessing viewer's reactions after watching the very last
episode of `friends'. The amount of break up distress reported by viewers was best predicted
by the intensity of their parasocial relationship.
Evidence for personal factors affecting the likelihood of a parasocial relationship
Shy and lonely individuals are more likely to form a parasocial relationship as they are
afraid to form real relationships but not parasocial ones. Ashe and McCutcheon found
that shyness and loneliness in young adults were weakly associated with the strength
of their parasocial relationships with celebrities. Egal and Cohen found that lonely
participants experienced more distress than non lonely participants after watching
the last episode of friends.
Age- young adults are more likely to engage in parasocial relationships which could be
because young people are less likely to have established a social network so feel they
need to extend their social relationships by fantasising about being close to a
celebrity. Giles and Maltby found that in a study of British teenagers aged 11-16,
that those who had an intense parasocial relationship with a celebrity reported low
levels of security and closeness to others and low attachment to their parents.
These findings suggest that those with parasocial relationships with celebrities were
motivated by a desire to reduce some deficiencies in their everyday lives.
Attachment style- Ainsworth identified 3 types of attachment: type A (avoidant),
type B (secure) and type C (resistant). Cole and Leets found that students with
resistant attachment types were most likely to have a parasocial relationship, those
with avoidant were least likely and those who were secure were in the middle. This is
because type C's are emotional and these emotions tend to be negative about
themselves and relationships with celebrities allows them to express emotions
without being rejected. Cohen used Israeli participants who completed
questionnaires indicating how they would react if their favourite TV characters were
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taken off air and their reactions were similar to those who experienced the end of a
Evidence for it- Egal and Cohen found that fans were depressed when the `friends' TV
series was cancelled.
Thomson found that prosocial relationships were almost as good as real ones.
Not the only explanation: other theories that try to explain attraction to celebrities
also include the social comparison theory and the mere exposure effect.…read more