Explanations for the attraction to celebrities: social comparison theory

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Media psychology
Explanations for the attraction to celebrities-social comparison theory
This theory suggests that as individuals we need to evaluate ourselves. One way to
do this is to make comparisons to other individuals in society. These are two types
of comparisons we can make:
Downward comparisons: evaluating ourselves to those who are worse than us
in our personal opinion. This helps us to feel better about ourselves.
Upward comparisons: evaluating ourselves in relation to those whom we
aspire to be like. We are attracted to celebrities as to many people they
represent the ideal person. This can have negative consequences.
Evidence supporting the theory
Shorter et al
Participants were given a questionnaire on eating attitude. They were then asked
who the aspired to be like. It was found that those who aspired to be like thin
celebrities (showing upward comparison) had negative effects on eating attitudes.
Evidence undermining the theory
Compared the influence of celebrities to peers in the age groups of 12-13 and
15-16 year olds in American high schools. They found that for girls, friends had
more influence on weight and build. Friends also influenced boys the most on
personality and style. Therefore peers seem to be more concerned about physical
features. This undermines the theory as it states that peers are more influential
than celebrities, which is the opposite of what the theory states.
explains the influence of celebrities as it says they are thought to
represent the ideal person
Doesn't show if peers or celebrities are more influential as it says we
evaluate ourselves to someone we aspire to be like. Whilst this is often
celebrities, it doesn't mean that it can't also be other people such as friends
who can be inspiring.
Doesn't say why we need to make social comparisons as it just states that
we do this. Therefore we only have a limited understanding of peoples
attraction to celebrities.


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