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The psychology of celebrity and fandom


The psychology of celebrity and fandom The attraction of celebrity Social psychological explanations Familiarity and physical attractiveness Psychological attraction ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The psychology of celebrity and fandom

The psychology of celebrity and fandom
The attraction of celebrity
Social psychological explanations
Familiarity and physical attractiveness
  • Psychological attraction occurs through repeated
    exposure and beauty as a positive central trait
    of impression formation.

Physical attraction
  • Landy and Sigall (1974) found that male
    participants rated essays thought to be written
    by a more attractive woman more highly.

Dion (1972)
  • Using photographs of 7 year old children found
    that attractive children were less likely to be
    thought of as anti-social than unattrative
  • Probably the best-known example of a 'laboratory
    type' investigation into
  • the role of attraction comes from Elaine Walster
    and her colleagues.

Walster and Berscheid's 'computer dance'
  • Arranged a computer dance for 376 male and
    female students. Before the dance they were all
    asked to fill in a personality questionnaire,
    ostensibly for use in pairing, in fact the
    pairing was done randomly and the questionnaire
    used to provide data about similarity. Later
    the participants were asked to rate their date.

Walster and Berscheid's cont.
  • They found the most important factor in
    determining whether a woman would be asked for a
    second date was her physical attractiveness,
    regardless of the mans.

Exposure and Familiarity
  • Zajonc investigated the mere exposure effect,
    which suggests that, all other things being equal
    people prefer stimuli that they have seen more
    often. Close proximity clearly increases the
    chances of repeated exposure, which may lead to
    familiarity and a sense of trust.

  • Zajonc et al (1971) asked participants to
    evaluate photos of strangers and found that those
    strangers who appeared more often than others
    were rated more positively. This effect has also
    been found for repeated exposure of music
    paintings, and political candidates.

  • Segal (1974) studied police cadets who were
    assigned to their rooms and classroom seats
    alphabetically, and found that they were more
    likely to rate someone as a friend who was close
    in the alphabet to them.

Heiders balance theory
  • Liking for celebrities may be a simple matter of
    maintaining cognitive consistency because we like
    their music, acting, fashion, view etc.

  • Heider (1958) proposes Balance Theory as a simple
    system for describing the way our environment is
    perceived by us. He says a person's environment
    is made up of entities (people, ideas and
    events), and relations between these entities.
    Balance theory deals with three kinds of
    entities. The person (P) whose subjective
    environment we are concerned with, another person
    (O) and the object (X), which may be a third
    person. Balance theory is concerned with how
    relations between the three entities, POX, are
    organised in terms of the person's (P's)
    cognitive structure. Balance theory proposes that
    with three entities, person-another person-object
    (POX), three sets of relations exist i.e. Between
    P and O between P and X and between O and X

  • Each of the three relations, P-O, P-X and O-X,
    can have one of two values. You can either 'like'
    () or 'dislike' (-). With three sets of possible
    relationships, each taking on one of two values
    (/-) eight possible states of affairs
    exists. Here is a schematic of Heider's Balance
    Theory, which is represented by eight triads for
    three entities with positive or negative
    sentiment relations.

  • The four triads on the left are balanced, the
    four on the right imbalanced. (Heider, 1958).

  • Rosenberg and Abelson (1960), maintain that
    attitude change occurs according to a principle
    of minimum effort, which states that the attitude
    that requires the least effort to change will be
    the one that changes. Or to put it more simply
    the one you feel is the least important to you.
    Balance theory is quite good with our intuitions
    about harmony and disharmony between people and
    the significant things in life.

  • Where it breaks down is when the object (X) is
    another person. Maybe this is why marriage
    guidance in a situation of an affair is such a
    struggle. Why do you think this would be the
  • Balance theory has a number of downsides. It
    suggests that relations between entities are
    either positive or negative.
  • Degree of like or dislike is not taken into
    account. It also can only deal with relationships
    between three entities.
  • Multiple relations often exist between people
    and/or objects.
  • Generally, Balance theory oversimplifies, but is
    quite successful within it's own domain.

Social construction of celebrity roles
  • celebrity is constructed by the mass media via
    advertising for economic gain the celebrity is
    well known for their well knowness (Boorstin

Social role identification
  • Celebrities are attractive and exert referent
    social power (people wish to be like and identify
    with them) because celebrities possess traits and
    abilities found in the ideal-selves of the
    audience, or symbolise their fans lifestyle
    aspirations of achievement and success (McCracken

Evolutionary psychology explanations
  • Physical attractiveness and status as fitness
    indicators celebrities usually possess higher
    levels of both these indicators of reproductive
    success, confirmed by Busss (1989)
    cross-cultural data from 10000 respondents in 37
    countries on the preferred characteristics of
    potential mates.

  • Talent and sexual selection celebrities often
    come from sports or entertainment industries and
    so have the chance to show displays of skill that
    distinguish themselves from their same-sex
    competitors (e.g. Miller, 2000) in the eyes of
    potential mates.

  • Social theories do not always explain the
    ultimate origin of attraction to the physical
    beauty and other desirable traits of celebrities,
    whereas evolutionary theories find it more
    difficult to account for modern celebrity fame
    based on no particular achievement or quality.

Dimension of Fandom
  • McCutcheon et al (2005)
  • Developed the Celebrity Attitude Scale (CAS), on
    the basis of which three distinct dimensions of
    fandom have emerged, which vary in terms of the
    parasocial interaction between fans and
    celebrities and the purpose they serve

  • Entertainment-social fans are attracted to a
    celebrity because they find him or her
    entertaining and a source of social interaction
    and gossip.

  • Intense-personal there is a strongly personal
    aspect of attraction to a celebrity a person may
    feel something bad happening to a celebrity as
    though he or she were experiencing it personally.

  • Borderline-pathological this is characterised by
    obsess ional behaviour fantasies about the
    celebrities people may imagine that they have a
    special relationship with the celebrity.

Research on intense fandom
Celebrity worship
  • Giles (2003) points out that the word fan comes
    from the Latin fanaticus meaning of the
    temple and cites two pieces of research that
    draw parallels between fandom and religion

  • Jindras (1994) analysis of Star Trek fans
    behaviour argued that it showed enough criteria
    to be classed as a civil religion, including
    organisations, dogmas, recruitment systems, and
    religious rituals.

  • Frow (1998) analysis of fan worship as a cult of
    the dead proposed that film star images become
    disembodied and worshipped once they are recorded
    on film.
  • Celebrity worship represents an extreme form of
    para-social interaction where people respond to
    media figures or their media portrayals (e.g.
    character roles) as if they were real people in
    their lives talking abot, interacting and
    assuming a social relationship with them despite
    no actual social contact.

  • Such papa-social interactions vary in degree,
    from sympathising with and talking about (or to!)
    the media figure on television as if they were in
    a real relationship, to modelling ones behaviour
    after, seeking contact with, or even stalking
    them, and experiencing para-social bereavement
    when they die e.g. the deaths of Princess Diana
    and Jill Dando in the UK (Giles 2003).

Explanation of celebrity worship include
  • Personality factors e.g. fantasy proneness,
    cognitive-deficits, low self-esteem, low levels
    of life control.

  • Self-concept over-identification fans are often
    attracted to and identify with celebrities who
    possess traits and abilities found in their
    ideal-self. McCutcheon et al (2002) suggest
    celebrity worship is due to over-identification
    based on psychological absorption and addiction.

  • Companionship needs through exposure and a
    sense of familiarity and intimacy (due to
    extensive media details of their private lives),
    celebrities provide para-social friendships
    (perhaps as a compensation for loneliness,
    deficiencies in social life, or dependency on

  • Social identity Theory celebrity worship for
    some may be reinforced by social group benefits
    of fan group membership, such as the rewarding
    social interaction of discussion forums or the
    acquisition of subcultural or countercultural

  • Stalking refers to the obsessive following of
    individuals (e.g. media figures) usually with
    unwanted attempts of physical contact and
    intrusion upon their lives, often leading to
    harassment, intimidation, or even physical

  • Pakes and Winstone (2007) point out that although
    there have been many well-publicised cases of
    fans stalking celebrities, research indicates
    that stalking occurs relatively frequently to
    non-celebrities, often by ex-partners and
    acquaintances more than strangers, and that there
    are different types of stalkers and motives for
    their behaviour.

Explanations of stalking
  • Sheridan and Boon (2002) identified five types
    based on 124 cases of staling serious enough to
    warrant police involvement

  • Ex-partner harassment/stalking often motivated
    by anger and bitterness and likely to involve
    impulsive violence.

  • Infatuation harassment less malicious,
    threatening and intrusive stalking motivated by
    intense yearning for and romantic fantasy about
    the victim.

  • Dangerous delusional fixation stalking often of
    high-status women or celebrities, motivated by
    belief of a hidden relationship and a history of
    mental health problems with a high risk of
    violence upon rejection.

  • Less dangerous delusional fixation stalking
    again based on a delusional assumed relationship
    of mutual affection with the victim but one that
    is understandably thwarted by external factors,
    e.g. existing marriages, so less likely to lead
    to violence.

  • Sadistic stalking more calculated and likely to
    escalate to violence, related to psychopathy and
    desires of control.

  • Meloy (1989) suggested staling arises from
    attachment pathology, a theory that could be
    supported by Dutton et al.s (1994) finding that
    individuals with preoccupied and fearful
    attachments were more likely to show jealousy,
    following and surveillance behaviour.

  • Kienlan et als (1997) study of a small sample of
    imprisoned American stalkers found the majority
    had lost their primary caretaker in childhood and
    had a major loss (usually a personal
    relationship) in the six months prior to the
    onset of their stalking behaviour.