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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.

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familiarity and physical attractiveness
Familiarity and physical attractiveness
  • Psychological attraction occurs through repeated exposure and beauty as a positive central trait of impression formation.
physical attraction
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
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 children.
  • 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 experiment
Walster and Berscheid's 'computer dance' experiment
  • 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
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 man’s.
exposure and familiarity
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.
heider s balance theory
Heider’s 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.
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 case?
  • 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
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 1961)
social role identification
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 1989)
evolutionary psychology explanations
Evolutionary psychology explanations
  • Physical attractiveness and status as fitness indicators –celebrities usually possess higher levels of both these indicators of reproductive success, confirmed by Buss’s (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
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.
celebrity worship
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:
Jindra’s (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 one’s 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
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 television).
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 identities.
  • 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 assault.
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
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 al’s (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.