The psychology of celebrity
What do I need to know?
1. What are the social Psychological explanations?
2. What are the evolutionary explanations?
3. What research has been done into intense fandom?
4. What are the explanations of stalking?
Social Psychological explanations
What are the Social Psychological explanations?
The positive/active view
Social Learning Theory
• Schumaker (2003) decline in religion and increase in fascination
• Fundamental need to worship
• Giles (2000) research not supported direct link between positive
attitudes to celebrity and religious fervour
• Maltby (2004) celebrity attitude scale. As religion increased,
celebrity worship decreased.
• Celebrity worship resembles religious worship. There are different
underlying psychological processes in operation
• Houran et al (2005) non-religious individuals more interested than
religious people in celebrities. – fulfils same need as church for
• Jindra (1994) Star Trek followers similar to religious movement.
Called trekkies, have same devotees as any other religion.
Going beyond admiration, extreme, delusional
McCutcheon et al (2002) pursuing parasocial r’ships due to deficits or lacks within their
Attempt to cope / escape reality
Often follow celebrities to gain personal identity and achieve sense of fulfilment
Tied closely to celebrity worship levels
Level 1 – most fans are harmless. BUT, those who have weaker sense of personal
identity or poorer psychological adjustment may absorb into a celebs personal life to
gain personal stronger identity
Can be addictive – hence stronger sense of involvement of celeb
Poorer mental health & level of parasocial r’ships seen as being associated
Maltby et al (2005) also supported by Shorter et al (2008) greater the gap in body
comparison of fave celeb more likely eating disorder
Jones (2001) adolescent boys and girls use celebs for social comparison
Chan and Predergast (2007) social comparison involving celeb lead to greater
materialism – adolescents believe material possession more important than happiness
THE POSITIVE/ACTIVE VIEW
• Jenkins & Jenson (1992)
Parasocial r’ships serve an important function
Fans enhance lives by taking active & positive role
Create social networks (fan clubs)
Fans develop sense of appreciation of others peoples talents
• Chamberlain et al (2008) examined idea that due to social
power and status celebrities received more favourable
treatment. However no differences found and social impact of
celeb may be less than imagined
• Richins (1994) individuals identified celebrities to construct
their self-concepts and identities
• Originates in early childhood
• Early childhood r’ships between young child and primary caregiver
• Insecure-attachment types likely to become strongly attached to celebs than
secure adult attachment types
• Insecure attached people get no criticisms, disappointment or rejection which
happens in real r’ships
• Anxious-ambivalent attachment style are clingy and needy. Parasocial r’ships
• Helps to understand intense fandom and stalking
• Mcann (2001) stalking bhvr in adolescence & adulthood related to insecure-att
• Anxious amb – try to contact their idol
• Insecure-avoidant prefer to keep distance in own r’ship but pursue idol
• McCutcheon et al (2006)
Celebrities are necessary?