The Psychology of Celebrity

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  • Created on: 09-03-11 10:03

The Attraction of Celebrity

Social-Psychological Explanations

Parasocial Relationships

  • A parasocial relationship is one in which an individual is attracted to another individual (usually a celebrity), but the target individual is unaware of the existence of the person who's created the relationship, (Horton and Wohl, 1956).
  • Because it is not a 'real' relationship, they do not run the risk of criticism or rejection (which may be its appeal), Ashe and MuCutcheon (2001).
  • What determines the likelihood of a parasocial relationship? Schiappa et al., (2007) carried out a meta-analysis of parasocial relationships. They concluded that parasocial relationships were most likely to form with TV celebrities who were seen as attractive and similar in some way to the viewer. Another important factor is that they are to appear real or that they acted in a believeable way. They believed that if the celebrity acted in a believeable way, viewers were able to compare how they would behave in similar situations.

- Research does not support the belief that parasocial relationships are dysfunctional (formed on the basis of loneliness). Schiappa et al.'s meta-analysis found loneliness was not a predictor of the formation of parasocial relationships. In fact some research suggests that people who are more socially active and motivated are more likely to engage in these relationships. (Sood and Rogers, 2000)

- Parasocial interactions with celebrities offer many social benefits. They provide models of social behaviour (e.g. intimacy and generosity) and an opportunity to learn cultural values (e.g. the importance of marriage)

The 'Absorption-Addiction Model'

  • McCutcheon et al., (2002) - most people never go beyond admiring celebrities because of the celebrities' entertainment or social value.
  • However, the motivational forces driving this absorption may eventually become addictive, leading the person to more extreme behaviours in order to sustain satisfaction with the parasocial relationship they have developed.
  • Giles and Maltby (2006) identify 3 levels in this process:

- Entertainment-social: fans are attracted to a favourite celebrity because of their perceived ability to entertain and to becomea source of social interaction and gossip. e.g. 'learning the life story of my favourite celebrity is a lot of fun.'

- Intense-personal: this aspect of celebrity worship reflects intensive and compulsive feelings about the celebrity. e.g. 'i consider my favourite celebrity to be my soul-mate.' They suggest that this can lead to the development of a passive parasocial relationship. e.g. 'if something bad happens to my favourite celebrity, i feel as if it happened to me.'

- Borderline-pathological: this dimension is typified by uncontrollable behaviours and fantasies about their celebrities. e.g. 'if i walked through the door of my favourite celebrity's house she or he would be happy to see me.' They suggest that this can lead to person believing there is a real relationship between themselves and the celebrity.

- Link to mental health? Maltby et al., (2003) used the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ) to assess the relationship between level of celebrity worship and personality. They found that whereas the entertainment-social level…



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