Reality TV, Celebrity, and the American Culture

I have a strong tendency to disregard celebrity culture, as I have found quite a lot of it to foster negative behaviors, and often times bright out the worst in others. To be fair, I have watched many reality TV shows, like The Real World, that have brought me to this conclusion:

The Anna Nicole Show:

Keeping Up with the Kardashians:

Nick and Jess: Newlyweds:

The Simple Life: Paris and Nicole:


Much of the above certainly isn’t good, and not something to really live by: Fighting and confrontations, asking stupid questions (Nick, I’m still available, by the way), spitting in other people’s faces, and all sorts of awful antics. I generally don’t find myself looking up to these people, even if I do see aspects of myself in them.

Luckily, there has been some study on celebrity worship and culture, that I find really valuable and informative, when looking at the social effects it has on others.

Celebrity Culture and Worship and Psychological Studies

This video from USC sociologist Karen Sternheimer  explains more about what it may mean:

In 2011, Sternheimer wrote a New York Times article, “The Bieber effect” detailing the strong conservative notions, and unspoken reality pertaining to celebrity culture within our society:

Americans don’t seem bothered enough by the country’s growing wealth divide to do much about it, according to a recent Harvard Business School survey. In part, that’s probably because they vastly underestimate the gap, believing the top 20% own 59% of the nation’s wealth when they actually own 84%.

But there’s another, less obvious reason for our passivity — the hope and glory pushed by an all-pervasive news, gossip and star-driven celebrity culture.

The core of the American dream teaches us that the formula for achieving wealth involves hard work, determination and luck. Celebrities, and the coverage of them, seem to provide visible proof of this message every day: If it can happen to Justin Bieber, it can happen to me. So why change the system?

The connection between stardom and social mobility is as old as the first fan magazines of a century ago. Silent-film star Ruth Clifford was an orphan who peered through a knothole at the Edison Studios lot in New Jersey before getting her big break, according to a 1919 issue of Photoplay. Virginia Valli was a stenographer traveling through a dangerous part of Chicago while struggling to support her mother and sister before leading the “limousine life,” a 1918 story in the same magazine details.

Just last week, in an obituary in the Los Angeles Times, the story was retailed again. Mary Murphy, who played the sweet small-town girl opposite Marlon Brando in “The Wild Ones,” was “a package wrapper at Saks Fifth Avenue on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills when she was discovered at a nearby coffee shop by a talent scout.”

The narrative persists like “once upon a time.” Stories about contemporary celebrities — in fan magazines like Us Weekly and on star-driven websites like E Online — typically highlight how much stars were like us before making it big. We see their embarrassing high school pictures and read about their small hometowns, relationships, babies, body fat, marriages and divorces.

Oprah Winfrey is at least as famous for her rise from rural Mississippi to billionaire media mogul as she is for her “Live your best life” message. Teen sensation Bieber personifies overnight success — from YouTube video to a recording deal and platinum album. The very title of his remix album and biopic, “Never Say Never,” echoes the American dream of limitless opportunities for anyone who refuses to give up.

The rise of the Internet and reality TV, which has made fame and fortune seem ever more accessible, has further strengthened the illusion that our class system is wide open. That Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi of “Jersey Shore” fame can command $32,000 for a Rutgers University appearance — $2,000 more than Nobel- and Pulitzer Prize-winning Toni Morrison received to deliver the university’s commencement speech — is not just a commentary on the value we place on celebrity. It also reaffirms the possibility of social mobility for those with few skills.

Celebrity culture sustains faith in our economic system in another way. It tells us whom to blame for failure — the individual.

Stories portray a star’s addiction, weight gain or personality problems as the rationale behind their downfall. A once -bright star who “let herself go” just needs to work harder at the gym and maybe appear on “Celebrity Fit Club” or “Dancing With the Stars.”

Tabloid darling Lindsay Lohan embodies this ethos: She is regularly portrayed as the architect of her career and life’s collapse. That’s not without truth, but seldom does coverage of her antics go beyond individual responsibility to explore the vagaries of stardom and the challenges young people face navigating the pressures of the industry.

The “has beens” who unwittingly star in these morality tales shore up a convenient notion of the American dream: that downward mobility — even during economic hard times — is about individual character traits rather than the social system or catastrophic societal and industrial changes.

During the Depression, silent-film director D.W. Griffith’s career slide was portrayed in a 1934 issue of Photoplay as the result of his own poor business decisions. Never mind the seismic shift that the rise of talkies brought to the industry.

More recently, when several of actor Nicolas Cage’s homes went into foreclosure and it was revealed that he owed millions in back taxes, People magazine pointed its finger at the actor’s out-of-control penchant for “lavish properties and prized toys.”

Celebrity culture’s focus on individual determination and, to some degree, blind luck as ingredients for success distracts us from the roles power and privilege actually play in upward mobility, even in Hollywood. It makes it easy to forget that a percentage of today’s A-list stars — Gwyneth Paltrow and Kiefer Sutherland, for example — had A-list parents whose connections likely opened doors that for most remain closed.

Hollywood is perceived as a bastion of liberalism with a wide variety of progressive causes. The great irony is that the celebrity on which it turns is among the most conservative social forces at play in shaping public attitudes about class and social mobility. There’s nothing wrong with the dream, except that it so rarely results in such spectacular reality.

In 2004, the British Journal of Psychology, published a study titled Personality and coping: a context for examining celebrity worship and mental health, detailing some of the mental health factors associated with celebrity worship:

Not only is there growing interest in celebrities in terms of fans and media coverage, but there is also growing evidence to suggest that celebrity worship may be of interest to psychologists. The phenomenon occurs more in adolescents or young adults than older persons (Ashe & McCutcheon, 2001; Giles, 2002; Larsen, 1995), celebrity worshippers are more likely to value a ‘game-playing’ love style (McCutcheon, Lange,& Houran, 2002), and celebrity worship shares a negative association with some aspects of religiosity (Maltby, Houran, Lange, Ashe, & McCutcheon, 2002). However, celebrity worship does not appear to be related to authoritarianism (Maltby & McCutcheon, 2001) and at best is only very weakly associated with shyness or loneliness (Ashe & McCutcheon, 2001).

McCutcheon et al. (2002) proposed an ‘absorption-addiction’ model to explain such cases of celebrity worship. According to this model, a compromised identity structure in some individuals facilitates psychological absorption with a celebrity in an attempt to establish an identity and a sense of fulfilment. The dynamics of the motivational forces driving this absorption might, in turn, take on an addictive component, leading to more extreme (and perhaps delusional) behaviours to sustain the individual’s satisfaction with the parasocial relationship. Several studies based on the Celebrity Attitude Scale (Maltby, McCutcheon, Ashe, & Houran, 2001; Maltby et al., 2002; McCutcheon et al., 2002) are consistent with this proposed model and suggest that there are three increasingly extreme sets of attitudes and behaviours associated with celebrity worship. Low levels of celebrity worship have entertainment-social value and comprise attitudes and behaviours like ‘My friends and I like to discuss what my favourite celebrity has done’ and ‘Learning the life story of my favourite celebrity is a lot of fun’. This stage reflects social aspects to celebrity worship and is consistent with Stever’s (1991) observation that fans are attracted to a favourite celebrity because of their perceived ability to entertain and capture our attention. Intermediate levels of celebrity worship, by contrast, are characterized by more intense-personal feelings, defined by items like ‘I consider my favourite celebrity to be my soul mate,’ and ‘I have frequent thoughts about my celebrity, even when I don’t want to’. This stage arguably reflects individuals’ intensive and compulsive feelings about the celebrity, akin to the obsessional tendencies of fans often referred to in the literature (Dietz et al., 1991; Giles, 2000). The most extreme expression of celebrity worship is labelled borderline-pathological, as exemplified by items like. ‘If someone gave me several thousand dollars (pounds) to do with as I please, I would consider spending it on a personal possession (like a napkin or paper plate) once used by my favourite celebrity’ and ‘If I were lucky enough to meet my favourite celebrity, and he/she asked me to do something illegal as a favour I would probably do it’. This factor is thought to reflect an individual’s social-pathological attitudes and behaviours that are held as a result of worshiping a celebrity.

At present there is no longitudinal evidence that celebrity worship evolves through a number of stages as proposed by McCutcheon et al. (2002). Rather, the existence of an evolution of celebrity worship was inferred from the fact that the attitudes and behaviours defining the concept of celebrity worship as measured by the Celebrity Attitude Scale (McCutcheon et al., 2002) conformed to a probabilistic Rasch (1960/1980) hierarchy. To be sure, this does not merely imply that some experiences occur more or less frequently than do others. Rather, the fit of the probabilistic Rasch (1960/1980) scaling models that were used in McCutcheon et al. (2002) indicate that rare (more extreme) expressions of celebrity worship tend to occur only when more common (less extreme) expressions of celebrity worship occur as well. As such, to understand some aspects of celebrity worship, particularly within aspects of relatively stable aspects of personality and trait coping, it may be necessary to set aside some of the assumptions of development that lay behind the absorption-addiction model and consider the dimensions of celebrity worship within possible competing models of behaviour.

Moreover, researchers have examined the relationship between celebrity worship and models of self-reported mental health and personality in a UK adult sample (N = 307; aged 18-48 years) and found evidence to suggest that celebrity worship is significantly related to poorer psychological well-being (Maltby et al., 2001). Specifically, the Entertainment-Social subscale of the Celebrity Attitude Scale accounted for unique variance in social dysfunction and depressive symptoms, whereas the Intense-Personal subscale accounted for unique variance in depression and anxiety scores. These authors speculated that the positive relationship between celebrity worship and poorer psychological well-being results from (failed) attempts to escape, cope with or enhance one’s daily life.

Further, Maltby, Houran, and McCutcheon (2003) have found evidence among UK university students (N = 317; aged 18-27 years) and adults (N = 290; aged 22-60 years) that the three dimensions of celebrity worship may parallel the three dimensions of Eysenckian personality theory (H. Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985): extraversion, neuroticism and psychoticism. That is, the Entertainment-Social factor of the Celebrity Attitude Scale reflects some of the extraversion personality traits (sociable, lively, active, venturesome), that the Intense-Personal factor of the Celebrity Attitude Scale reflects some of the neuroticism traits (tense, emotional, moody), and that some of the acts described in the Borderline-Pathological subscale of the Celebrity Attitude Scale seem to reflect some of the psychoticism traits (impulsive, anti-social, ego-centric).

The consideration of personality factors in mental health has been well established. Using the three-factor models of personality (Costa & McCrae, 1992; H. Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985), research suggests that foremost, neuroticism, among clinical and nonclinical samples, is associated with poorer mental health; including negative affect (Bagby & Rector, 1998; Hull, Tedlie, & Lehn, 1995; Larsen, 1992), anxiety (Cox, Borger, Taylor, Fuentes, & Ross, 1999; Gershuny, Sher, Bossy, & Bishop, 2000; Maltby, Lewis, & Hill, 1998; Matthews, Sakolfske, Costa, Deary, & Zeidner, 1998) a dispositional factor for depression (Saklofske, Kelly, & Janzen, 1995), severity of depression (Peterson, Bottonario, Alpert, Fava,& Nierenberg, 2001) and correlated with depressive symptoms (Bagby, Parker, & Joffe, 1993; Compton, 1998; Costa & McCrae, 1980; Maltby et al., 1998). Further, within the three-factor model there is evidence to suggest that extraversion is related to subjective well-being, happiness, positive effect and optimistic traits, and psychoticism is thought to represent some emotional disturbance (Costa & McCrae, 1980; H. Eysenck& Eysenck, 1975). Therefore, given that there is some evidence to suggest that celebrity worship is significantly related to each aspect of Eysenck’s personality dimensions among UK samples, the area of personality and mental health might provide a useful context for understanding the relationship between celebrity worship and mental health.

There has been literature that has tried to establish higher order models for understanding construct space and possible theoretical overlaps between constructs. There is research that suggests examining higher order constructs among personality, interests and knowledge to provide a comprehensive understanding and basis for further developments in adult intellect (Ackerman, 1996, 1997; Beier & Ackerman, 2003). Similarly, higher order constructs have been used to understand which underlying constructs are the strongest predictors in health variables (Deary, Clyde,& Frier, 1997; Vassend & Skrondal, 1999). One particularly recent finding used a similar approach (Ferguson, 2001). Measures of Eysenck’s personality dimensions were administered alongside coping measures that provide a useful context to understanding not only personality factors, but also coping strategies that underpin the relationship between celebrity worship and mental health. In response to a growing literature on the association between personality and coping (e.g. Suls, David, & Harvey, 1996), as part of an adaptational continuum in which there are structural similarities between the two concepts (Costa, Somerfield, & McCrae, 1996; Ferguson, 2001; Watson & Hubbard, 1996), Ferguson (2001) provides a factor analysis of the subscales contained within Eysenck’s Personality Questionnaire-Revised (H. Eysenck, Barrett, Wilson, & Jackson, 1992; S. Eysenck, Eysenck, & Barrett, 1985) and the COPE scale (Carver, Scheier,& Weintraub, 1989). In this analysis, Ferguson identified four factors; problem-focused coping (suppression, active coping, planning, restraint coping, acceptance, positive reinterpretation and growth), NI-COPE (neuroticism, denial, behavioural disengagement, mental disengagement and a low negative loading of extraversion), P-COPE (psychoticism, turning to religion, drug and alcohol use, and negative loading of turning to religion coping style) and E-COPE (extraversion, emotional social support, instrumental social support and focus on and venting of emotions).

As such, these findings integrate personality and coping theory, and given the strong theoretical and empirical support that personality and coping factors underlie mental health (Carver et al., 1989; H. Eysenck & Eysenck, 1975; Hull et al., 1995; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984), the adaptational-continuum personality-coping model may provide an adequate theoretical context for understanding the relationship between aspects of celebrity worship and mental health. More specifically, Fig. 1 demonstrates the hypothesized relationships among the three domains, celebrity worship, adaptational-continuum personality-coping model and mental health. Within Fig. 1, there are clear models that can be tested. The first is that any relationship between celebrity worship for entertainment-social reasons and mental health is mediated by the extraversion-coping factor. The second is that any relationship between celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons and mental health is mediated by the neuroticism-coping factor. The third is that any relationship between borderline-pathological celebrity worship and mental health is mediated by the psychoticism-coping factor. The aim of the present study was to examine the relationship between celebrity worship and mental health, within the context of an adaptational-continuum personality-coping model by testing the three models outlined above.

The results of the study are as follows:

The relationships between each of the demographic variables and the celebrity worship scales were examined to test for any possible confounding variables.

First, it may be that age influences celebrity worship, as interest in celebrities may wane with age. However, no significant relationship was found between age and celebrity worship for entertainment-social reasons (r = .01, p > .05), celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons (r = -.04, p > .05), and borderline-pathological celebrity worship (r = .03, p > .05).

Second, it is possible that education may influence celebrity worship as people with a higher level of education may not be as enamoured with celebrities. However, no significant relationship was found between education level (scored as 1 = no qualification, 2 = ‘O’-level/GCSE or equivalent, 3 = ‘A’-level or equivalent, 4 = Attended college, 5 = Degree, 6 = Postgraduate qualification) and celebrity worship for entertainment-social reasons (r = .03, p > .05), celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons (r = -.01, p > .05), and borderline-pathological celebrity worship (r = .03, p > .05).

Finally, it might be that people who are employed, and people who are married, may be less interested in celebrities, as they have less time to devote to celebrities. Table 1 shows the mean scores and standard deviations of all the celebrity worship scales by employment and marital status. No significant difference for employment or marital status was found for scores on any of the celebrity worship.

Table 2 shows the mean scores and standard deviations of all the scales by sex. Among the present sample, females scored significantly higher than males on neuroticism, denial and acceptance, and males scored significantly higher than females on psychoticism and the pathological subscale of the CAS. In addition, Table 2 also shows that the scales demonstrate adequate internal reliability (Cronbach, 1951) among the present sample, perhaps with the exception of the Alcohol and Drug Use subscale of the COPE and the psychoticism scale.

The present study is the largest non-student sample to report the use of the CAS and no previous study using the CAS has estimated the prevalence among such a large sample of respondents that can be classed as celebrity worshippers for entertainment-social, intense-personal and borderline-pathological reasons. The suggested criteria for classifying celebrity worshippers using the CAS are scores above the theoretical mean for each subscale (Entertainment-Social, mean = 30; Intense-Personal, mean = 27; Borderline-Pathological, mean = 9). Using these criteria, 15.1% of the sample could be classified as entertainment-social celebrity worshippers, 5.1% of the sample could be classified as intense-personal celebrity worshippers and 1.9% of the sample could be classified as borderline-pathological celebrity worshippers. Such statistics need to be treated with caution as the use of the mean statistic is arbitrary, but it provides some information on the possible prevalence of celebrity worship under these dimensions within the UK.

The next aim of the analysis was to establish clear measurement within the three different domains examined in the study; celebrity worship, personality-coping and mental health. Table 3 shows principal components analysis (with components accounting for 50.03% of the variance) within oblimin rotation of the items of the CAS, with the number of components determined by a scree test. The resulting solution is consistent with previous findings using the scale (Maltby et al., 2002, 2003), namely that the items comprise three components; entertainment-social, intense-personal and borderline-pathological. From these emerging components, factor scores were computed for each component respectively.

Similarly, there is a need to establish those personality-coping factors that exist among the present sample. Table 4 shows the resulting loadings of a principal components analysis (with components accounting for 46.93% of the variance) with oblimin rotation (with the number of components determined by a scree test) using the measures of Eysenckian personality and COPE. The present findings largely replicate the previous findings of Ferguson (2001). The first component to emerge reflects problem-focused coping, with the suppression, active, planning, restraint, acceptance and positive reinterpretation and growth coping strategies loading positively on this component. The second is clearly a neuroticism component with measures of denial and mental and behavioural disengagement loading positively on this component. Previously, Ferguson found that extraversion loaded negatively and partially (.33) on this component, suggesting aspects of introversion as important to this component. Originally, Ferguson named this component NI-COPE, however, following the present findings it is perhaps better named N-COPE. The third component is also consistent with Ferguson’s findings of a P-COPE with psychoticism loading negatively on a component alongside measures of alcohol and drug use, humour (that also load negatively on this component) and religion (that loads positively on this component). The final component is consistent with Ferguson’s E-COPE factor, with extraversion dominating a component on which seeking social support (for both instrumental and emotional reasons) and focusing on and venting of emotions all load positively. From these emerging components, factor scores were computed for each component.

Finally, to clearly identify factors among the mental health measures, all the mental health measures (depression, anxiety, somatic symptoms, social dysfunction, positive affect, negative affect, perceived stress and life satisfaction) were subjected to a principal components analysis with oblimin rotation, with the number of components determined by a scree test (see Table 5). The resulting solution accounted for 63.70% of the variance and the solution showed two clear components emerging from the analysis. The first component comprises the measures of satisfaction with life, positive affect, negative affect, perceived stress (with the satisfaction of life and positive affect measures loading negatively on this component). This component is probably best labelled as a ‘negative affect’ component, with higher scores on this factor indicating higher levels of negative affect. The second component comprises all the measures from the GHQ (depression, anxiety, somatic symptoms and social dysfunction). As previous research has suggested that the GHQ may comprise one element (Goldberg & Williams, 1991), this finding is consistent with previous findings using this scale, and this factor was labelled as ‘general mental health’, with higher scores on this factor indicating poorer levels of reported general mental health.

Table 6 shows the zero-order correlations between the factor scores computed for each of the theoretical domains (celebrity worship, personality-coping and mental health). One validity check of the present findings is to examine the relationships between the personality-coping and the mental health factors. The findings that negative affect and the general mental health factor scores share significant negative association with the problem-focused coping factor scores and positive association with the N-COPE factor scores are consistent with previous findings that problem-focused coping is significantly associated with better mental health (Carver et al., 1989) and neuroticism is associated with poorer mental health (H. Eysenck& Eysenck, 1975).

Moreover, the E-COPE factor was significantly negatively related to the negative affect scale. Within Eysenckian theory, extraversion is positively associated with attitudes and behaviours reflecting a positive affect, including happiness, optimism and cheerfulness, whereas neuroticism is usually found to be associated with aspects of negative affect, such as depression and anxiety (H. Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985). Therefore, it is consistent with theory to find that the E-COPE factor is significantly related to the factor that contains the positive affect and satisfaction with life scales. Together these results suggest consistency of the present findings to general theory and research surrounding personality, coping and mental health.

In terms of the relationship between celebrity worship and the other domains, the present findings are consistent with previous findings (Maltby et al., 2003) that the three different aspects of celebrity worship (entertainment-social, intense-personal and borderline-pathological) are reflected in Eysenck’s three personality dimensions (extraversion, neuroticism and psychoticism, respectively). However, in terms of the relationship between celebrity worship and mental health, only celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons is significantly related to mental health. This is only partly consistent with the findings of Maltby et al. (2001) who found that not only was celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons significantly related to depression and anxiety, but celebrity worship for entertainment-social reasons was also significantly related to social dysfunction and depressive symptoms. As such, the present findings cast doubt on the generalizability of previous findings of a relationship between celebrity worship for entertainment-social reasons and mental health.

The finding that it is only celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons that is related to mental health suggests that only the second of the three a priori models presented can be tested (Fig. 1). This model suggets that the relationship between celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons and mental health is mediated by the neuroticism-coping (N-COPE) factor.

It is possible to test such a model. However, a statistical test of the model is a necessary but not sufficient condition for mediation (Kenny, Kashy, & Bolger, 1998). It is also necessary to show that the mediator (N-COPE; neuroticism-coping) either temporally or, in present consideration, conceptually precedes negative effect and general mental health. There is a wealth of evidence which suggests that, both conceptually and empirically, neuroticism and the coping variables (denial and mental and behavioural disengagement) are thought to be crucial preceding factors to a range of mental health variables.

Theoretically, both personality traits (with an emphasis on stable and enduring aspects of individuals and with some origin in biological psychology) and coping (with an emphasis on psychological mechanisms or resources that seek to address stressful situations) are described as influential factors in mental health (H. Eysenck & Eysenck, 1975; Lazarus& Folkman, 1984; Lazarus & Smith, 1988) Further, there is strong empirical evidence to support the view that personality, and particularly neuroticism, and coping are strong predictors of mental health variables (Carver et al., 1989; Hull et al., 1995). Therefore, there is a strong argument to suggest that neuroticism-coping conceptually precedes negative effect and general mental health and any statistical testing will examine whether neuroticism-coping mediates the proposed relationships between the variables.

The essential statistical steps to establish that variable M mediates the effect of variable X on variable Y are, first, to determine the standardized coefficient a (and standard error [s.sub.a]) in a linear regression of X on M and, second, to determine the standardized coefficient b (and standard error [s.sub.b]) of M in a multiple regression of Y on X and M (Kenny et al., 1998). The product ab of the path coefficients represents the mediation effect. A direct, approximate z-test of the hypothesis that the mediation effect ab is greater than zero is provided by Baron and Kenny (1986). Applying the procedure to the factor scores, we find that N-COPE factor mediates both the effect of celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons on general mental health (ab = .095, z = 4.26, p < .00001) and the effect of celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons on negative affect (ab = .082, z = 3.86, p < .0001).

After allowing for the mediating influence of neuroticism-coping, the direct effect of celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons on general mental health has a residual path coefficient of .123 (t = 2.38, p< .02), and the direct effect of celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons on negative affect has a residual path coefficient of .157 (t = 3.02, p < .003). Because both t-tests are significant, it is evident that neuroticism-coping does not completely mediate the effect of celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons on general mental health and negative affect.


The establishment of such a structural context within which to examine relationships between constructs and understand them within a higher order factor space has been influential in understanding adult intellect and health variables (Ackerman, 1996, 1997; Beier & Ackerman, 2003; Deary et al., 1997; Vassend & Skrondal, 1999). The present study examined the relationship between celebrity worship and mental health within the context of an adaptational-continuum model of personality and coping.

The first finding is the replicable component structure of the Ferguson (2001) model of personality and coping and the components of this model in relation to mental health. The component structure of the personality-coping measures in which problem-focused coping, N-COPE, E-COPE and P-COPE components were established, are largely consistent with Ferguson’s (2001) findings. One point not raised by Ferguson is the lack of a relationship between problem-focused coping and any of the personality variables. The present findings suggest that problem-focused coping can be considered out of Eysenck personality space, and the examination of this variable to other personality variables (e.g. five factor variables) may prove useful to integrating this factor fully within a personality-coping model.

Additionally, the findings between the personality-coping factors and mental health factors suggest that the present findings can be treated with some confidence. Problem-focused coping is associated with better mental health, whereas neuroticism (albeit a neuroticism factor) is related to poorer mental health. These findings are consistent with wider personality, coping and mental health literature (Carver et al., 1989; H. Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985). Further, the relationship between the factors of adaptational-continuum model of personality using Eysenck’s personality and the COPE measure and measures of mental health have not been reported before. As such, these findings alone present new data providing support for Ferguson’s (2001) reported model of this version of an adaptational-continuum model of personality.

The second finding regards the relationship between the celebrity worship dimensions and the personality-coping dimensions. As predicted, and consistent with previous findings regarding celebrity worship and personality (Maltby et al., 2003), celebrity worship for entertainment-social reasons is positively related to extraversion-coping, celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons is positively related to neurotic-coping, and borderline-pathological celebrity worship is positively related to psychoticism-coping. These findings suggest that: (i) celebrity worshippers who do so for entertainment-social reasons are extraverted, seek information and support, and are able to display emotions; (ii) celebrity worshippers who do so for intense-personal reasons are neurotic, use denial, and mental and behavioural disengagement; and (iii) celebrity worshippers who are borderline-pathological demonstrate social-pathological, use a sense of humour to cope, use drink and drugs and are not religious.

In terms of mental health consequences of these behaviours, it is only one aspect of celebrity worship dimension that is significantly related to mental health. On both health dimensions identified in the present study, celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons was associated with poorer general health (depression, anxiety, somatic symptoms, social dysfunction) and negative affect (negative affect, stress, and low positive affect and life satisfaction). Further, the path analysis suggested that the relationship between celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons and poorer mental health was mediated by the neuroticism-coping dimension of adaptational-continuum model of personality and coping; which comprises the personality variable neuroticism, and the coping mechanisms, mental disengagement, denial and behavioural disengagement. This suggests that the relationship between celebrity worship and poorer mental health is the result of neuroticism personality traits, and behaviours and attitudes that suggest a disengagement and failure to acknowledge, let alone deal with, stressful events. This relationship with these aspects of coping style suggests that those individuals who engage in intense-personal celebrity worship do not deal effectively with everyday events. Accordingly, we speculate that those who intensely worship celebrities may actually spend time worshipping celebrities at the expense of dealing with everyday events.

However, there is also evidence to suggest that the neuroticism-coping factor does not completely mediate the effect of intense-personal celebrity worship on general mental health and negative affect. As such, there is further opportunity to consider other theoretical approaches that may further aid the understanding of the relationship between intense-personality celebrity and mental health. A future consideration may be to further examine the measurement of certain variables used in this study, such as neuroticism. H. Eysenck, Wilson, and Jackson (2000) suggest there are seven specific components to neuroticism (low self-esteem, unhappiness, anxiety, dependence, hypochondria, obsessiveness and guilt) and including a longer measure of neuroticism, than employed in the present study, alongside the measures used in this study, may widen the present consideration. Alternatively, other theories and aspects, considered conceptually outside personality and coping, might also add to the present consideration. One example theory could be taken from McCutcheon et al. (2002) who have argued that increased levels of celebrity worship may reflect an absorption or addiction to a celebrity. Both these variables may also provide a further basis for understanding the relationship between intense-personal celebrity worship and poorer mental health. Consequently, such future research may try to use measures of absorption and addiction, alongside those used in the present study, to provide a fuller explanation of the mechanisms that provide a further context to understanding the relationship between celebrity worship and mental health.

The other identified celebrity worship factors do not demonstrate a significant relationship with the measures of mental health. This finding is inconsistent with previous research suggesting that celebrity worship for entertainment-social reasons is associated with higher levels of social dysfunction and depression. As such, the failure to replicate findings across samples needs to be addressed and considered. However, the present findings are from a larger UK sample than previously reported and are considered within a wider theoretical model than previously entertained, and as such provide confidence for the suggestion that celebrity worship for entertainment-social reasons is not significantly related to mental health.

The prevalence of higher levels of celebrity worship among the present sample (entertainment-social, 15%, intense-personal, 5% and borderline-pathological, 1%) and an absence of a significant relationship between the entertainment-social and borderline-pathological aspects celebrity worship and mental health suggest that, like many attitudes and behaviours, celebrity worship should not be a concern when carried out in moderation. However, for those individuals who worship celebrities for intense-personal reasons, there may be consequences for individual mental health. Within the present study, 5% of respondents could be considered as showing high levels of intense-personal dimensions to their celebrity worship, and as such suggest that some of the population may be at risk from the way they consider and focus on their celebrities. Therefore, it may be necessary to begin to speculate how it may be possible to intervene when celebrity worship takes on intense-personal characteristics to a point of concern. The present findings inform this issue. For example, those who engage in intense-personal forms of celebrity worship are characterized as tense, emotional and moody (neuroticism). They deal with stress by disengaging (both mentally and behavioural) and by living in a state of denial. Such a description suggests that an intense-personal celebrity worshipper is very emotional, tense and tends to withdraw from the world. As a result, individuals who demonstrate a worrying level of intense-personal celebrity worship and who suffer from mental health problems might be best helped by understanding and addressing their emotionality. Further, they should likely be encouraged to stop withdrawing and disengaging from stressful situations. However, such interventions need to be considered properly within future research.

As such, this integration of personality-coping variables allows the simplification of the literature in celebrity worship, personality and mental health, and begins to direct future research to work within the context of an adaptational-continuum model. That is, celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons leads to poorer mental heath and this relationship can be largely understood within the dimensions of neuroticism and coping style that suggest disengagement with life. These findings have empirical, clinical and practical implications and provide an important context for understanding the nature and consequences of celebrity worship.

Table 1. Mean comparisons (SD) of all the scales by employment and
marital status

                              Employed     Unemployed
Scale                         (n = 210)    (n = 162)    t

CAS-Entertainment-Socia       21.46 (8.0)  21.73 (7.8)   -.27
CAS-Intense-Personal          15.74 (5.7)  15.66 (5.7)    .12
CAS-Borderline-Pathological    4.40 (1.5)   4.74 (2.3)  -1.54

                              Married      Not married
Scale                         (n = 176)    (n = 196)    t

CAS-Entertainment-Social      21.68 (8.2)  21.28 (7.7)    .48
CAS-Intense-Personal          15.97 (5.9)  16.21 (6.0)   -.39
CAS-Borderline-Pathological    4.32 (1.6)   4.65 (2.0)  -1.78

CAS, Celebrity Attitude Scale.
* p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001.

Table 2. Mean scores (SD) and alpha coefficients of all the scales by

Scale                            [alpha]  Males (n = 182)

CAS-Entertainment-Social         .88      22.15 (8.0)
CAS-Intense-personal             .85      16.13 (6.1)
CAS-Borderline-Pathological      .73       4.83 (2.1)
Neuroticism                      .76       2.55 (2.0)
Extraversion                     .78       3.62 (2.0)
Psychoticism                     .65       2.90 (1.8)
Suppression                      .88      10.72 (3.4)
Active Coping                    .90      10.43 (3.3)
Planning                         .84      10.55 (3.3)
Restraint Coping                 .84      10.63 (3.2)
Acceptance                       .80      10.31 (3.3)
Positive Reinterpretation        .90      10.62 (3.4)
Behavioural Disengagement        .80       9.42 (2.5)
Denial                           .76       9.29 (2.4)
Mental Disengagement             .69       9.70 (2.4)
Emotional Social Support         .70       9.63 (2.3)
Instrumental Social Support      .71      10.03 (2.3)
Focus on and Venting of Emotion  .72       9.74 (2.5)
Humour                           .76       9.57 (2.4)
Turning to Religion              .80       8.21 (2.3)
Alcohol and Drug Use             .64       9.04 (2.3)
Depression                       .69       8.93 (2.2)
Anxiety                          .70       8.27 (1.7)
Somatic Symptoms                 .68       8.04 (2.3)
Social Dysfunction               .73       7.95 (1.5)
Perceived Stress                 .91      13.02 (9.2)
Positive Affect                  .92      31.24 (9.2)
Negative Affect                  .90      24.37 (9.1)
Life Satisfaction                .88      23.23 (7.6)

Scale                            Females (n = 190)  t

CAS-Entertainment-Social         20.82 (7.8)         1.62
CAS-Intense-personal             16.07 (5.9)          .09
CAS-Borderline-Pathological       4.18 (1.4)         3.56  ***
Neuroticism                       3.16 (1.9)        -2.95  **
Extraversion                      3.84 (2.0)        -1.06
Psychoticism                      2.20 (1.7)         3.79  ***
Suppression                      10.81 (3.1)         -.27
Active Coping                    11.03 (3.1)        -1.80
Planning                         10.98 (3.3)        -1.27
Restraint Coping                 10.72 (3.2)         -.28
Acceptance                       11.08 (3.1)        -2.35  *
Positive Reinterpretation        10.79 (3.3)         -.50
Behavioural Disengagement         9.52 (2.5)         -.38
Denial                            9.99 (2.6)        -2.70  **
Mental Disengagement              9.71 (2.3)         -.03
Emotional Social Support          9.82 (2.1)         -.85
Instrumental Social Support      10.17 (2.3)         -.62
Focus on and Venting of Emotion   9.74 (2.3)         -.01
Humour                            9.39 (2.4)          .32
Turning to Religion               8.45 (2.2)        -1.01
Alcohol and Drug Use              8.75 (2.2)         1.24
Depression                        9.12 (2.5)          .60
Anxiety                           8.12 (1.7)        -1.43
Somatic Symptoms                  8.75 (2.2)         -.75
Social Dysfunction                8.20 (1.9)          .86
Perceived Stress                 13.26 (9.5)         -.25
Positive Affect                  32.16 (9.1)         -.98
Negative Affect                  24.11 (9.0)          .28
Life Satisfaction                23.40 (7.4)         -.22

* p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001.

Table 3. Principal components analysis with oblimin rotation of the
items of the celebrity attitude scale

Items                                                1      2     3

  My friends and I like to discuss what my            .69#  -.05    .12
  favorite celebrity has done.
  One of the main reasons I maintain an interest      .69#   .10   -.17
  in my favorite celebrity is that doing so gives
  me a temporary escape from life's problems.
  I enjoy watching, reading, or listening to my       .64#  -.01    .04
  favorite celebrity because it means a good time.
  I love to talk with others who admire my favorite   .75#  -.05   -.08
  When something bad happens to my favorite           .68#  -.04   -.01
  celebrity I feel like it happened to me.
  Learning the life story of my favorite celebrity    .72#   .03   -.06
  is a lot of fun.
  It is enjoyable just to be with others who like     .67#   .09    .10
  my favorite celebrity.
  When my favorite celebrity fails or loses at        .60#   .04    .03
  something I feel like a failure myself.
  I like watching and hearing about my favorite       .72#  -.01   -.01
  celebrity when I am in a large group of people.
  Keeping up with news about my favorite celebrity    .70#   .07    .07
  is an entertaining pastime.
  If I were to meet my favorite celebrity in         -.01    .67#   .03
  Person, he/she would already somehow know that
  I am his/her biggest fan.
  I share with my favorite celebrity a special bond  -.02    .60#   .11
  that cannot be described in words.
  I am obsessed by details of my favorite            -.08    .71#   .06
  celebrity's life.
  When something good happens to my favorite         -.06    .70#  -.05
  celebrity I feel like it happened to me.
  I have pictures and/or souvenirs of my favorite    -.02    .67#   .04
  celebrity, which I always keep, in exactly the
  same place.
  The successes of my favorite celebrity are my      -.02    .75#  -.15
  successes also.
  I consider my favorite celebrity to be my           .11    .65#  -.03
  soul mate.
  I have frequent thoughts about my favorite          .08    .62#   .03
  celebrity, even when I don't want to.
  When my favorite celebrity dies (or died) I will   -.06    .65#   .09
  feel (or I felt) like dying too.
  I often feel compelled to learn the personal       -.02   -.02    .82#
  habits of my favorite celebrity.
  If I was lucky enough to meet my favorite           .03    .13    .75#
  celebrity, and he/she asked me to do something
  illegal as a favor, I would probably do it.
  If someone gave me several thousand dollars         .02   -.04    .81#
  to do with as I please, I would consider
  spending it on a personal possession (like a
  napkin or paper plate) once used by my favorite

Note. Loadings on the component above .44 are in bold.

Note. Loadings on the component above .44 indicated with #.

Table 4. Principal components analysis with oblimin rotation of the
personality and coping measures

Scale                       1       2       3        4

Neuroticism                  .10     .80#   -.07     -.04
Extraversion                -.06    -.01     .03      .73#
Psychoticism                 .06     .05    -.67#    -.17
Suppression                  .79#   -.06     .05     -.02
Active Coping                .81#   -.01     .06     -.05
Planning                     .81#    .06     .02      .03
Restraint Coping             .79#    .02    -.04     -.09
Acceptance                   .80#    .05     .05      .02
Positive Reinterpretation    .80#   -.02    -.06      .02
Behavioural Disengagement    .10     .60#    .08      .03
Denial                      -.01     .56#    .08      .19
Mental Disengagement        -.13     .51#    .03     -.18
Emotional Social Support    -.03     .02    -.06      .54#
Instrumental Social Support  .01     .02     .13      .42#
Focus on and Venting         .05     .08    -.11      .56#
Humour                      -.04     .08    -.62#     .06
Turning to Religion         -.03     .09     .46#    -.05
Alcohol and Drug Use        -.04    -.05    -.60#     .02

Note. Loadings on the component above .44 are in bold.

Note. Loadings on the component above .44 indicated with #.

Table 5. Principal components analysis of the psychological well-being

Scale                    1        2

Depression (GHQ)          .07      .81#
Anxiety (GHQ)             .08      .82#
Social Dysfunction (GHQ)  .18      .54#
Somatic Symptoms (GHQ)   -.14      .62#
Satisfaction with Life   -.92#    -.03
Positive Affect          -.87#     .08
Negative Affect           .82#     .12
Perceived Stress          .90#     .01

GHQ, General Health Questionnaire.
Note. Loadings on the component above .44 are in bold.

Note. Loadings on the component above .44 indicated with #.

Table 6. Pearson product moment correlation coefficients between factors
scores for the three domains, celebrity worship, personality-coping and
mental health

                      1     2     3        4     5

1. Entertainment-     1.00   .01   .13*     .04   -.03
   social factor
2. Intense-personal         1.00   .24***  -.03    .33***
   factor score
3. Borderline-                    1.00      .06    .03
   factor score
4. Problem-focused                         1.00    .01
   factor score
5. N-COPE factor                                  1.00
6. P-COPE factor
7. E-COPE factor
8. Negative affect
   factor score
9. General mental
   health factor

                       6           7        8        9

1. Entertainment-     -.03         .29***   -.10      .03
   social factor
2. Intense-personal   -.04        -.01       .23***   .22**
   factor score
3. Borderline-        -.31** (1)  -.03       .10      .09
   factor score
4. Problem-focused     .02         .02      -.24***  -.36***
   factor score
5. N-COPE factor       .03        -.03       .30***   .33***
6. P-COPE factor      1.00         .01      -.08     -.10
7. E-COPE factor                  1.00      -.20***   .01
8. Negative affect                          1.00      .35**
   factor score
9. General mental                                    1.00
   health factor

(1) Note this is negatively correlated because psychoticism loads
negatively on the original principal components analysis (Table 4).
* p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001.

In 2005, the British Journal of Psychology published an article titled Distinguishing heroes from celebrities:

The investigation of those factors that contribute to an individual making ‘great’ contributions to society has a rich research pedigree in psychology. Researchers such as Galton and Freud have drawn on approaches as diverse as biology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, and psychoanalysis, to name but a few. This theoretical and methodological diversity has had two consequences. First, various factors have been predicted to relate to the greatness of individuals and the works they produce, including for example, IQ (Baker & Cote, 2003; Simonton, 2002), birth order (Somit, Peterson,& Arwine, 1994), parental loss (Ludwig, 1996), and career duration (Simonton, 1989). Second, greatness has been defined by a variety of means such as column space allocations in encyclopaedias, creative productivity (e.g. number of patents taken out), or even just the subjective opinion of the researcher. One constant among much of this research is that the individuals chosen for study are typically also famous to some degree (e.g. political leaders, artists, and scientists). However, there is a dearth of research concerning the distinction between what contributes to the perception of an individual’s greatness rather than the perception of their being famous. For example, it is arguable that many people would not necessarily regard a famous television presenter as a truly great individual, and little is known about why some high-achieving individuals should be great but others merely famous.

This is surprising for two reasons. First, profiles of great persons such as political or business leaders are extremely prevalent in the media, such that they indicate a considerable degree of public interest that would presumably be reflected in opinions concerning what constitutes greatness rather than merely fame. Second, a small number of studies over recent years have addressed the concept of celebrity but, rather than attempting to distinguish between greatness and fame, these have instead focused on the consequences for the general public of an interest in the lives of celebrities (Brown, Basil, & Bocarnea, 2003; Fraser & Brown, 2002; Stack, 2003); or on what differentiates so-called celebrity worshippers from the general populace (e.g. McCutcheon, 2003; McCutcheon, Ashe, & Houran, 2003).

Indeed, psychological research has implicitly adopted a definition of greatness that might be confounded with that of celebrity. The existing research might be regarded as defining a great person as ‘a famous person who leaves behind objects, ideas or followers, which are of national or international importance, and whose achievements persist through time’. In apparent justification of this confounding of greatness and celebrity, research indicates that when members of the general public are asked to nominate the ‘greatest’ individuals within a particular field of human endeavour they tend to nominate famous people who are perceived as producing output of high quality which has been well-known for a long period of time. For example, Farnsworth’s (1969) polling of members of the American Musicological Society found a consistent tendency for participants to nominate classical music composers such as Mozart and Beethoven. Similarly North and Hargreaves (1996) also found that nominations of the greatest works within several artistic domains also indicated a tendency towards well-known works of long-established acclaim. For example, participants believed that the greatest play was Shakespeare’s Hamlet, with similar findings for paintings (i.e. DaVinci’s The Last Supper), sculpture (i.e. Michaelangelo’s La Pieta), and architecture (i.e. Chartres Cathedral).

In short, findings such as these, in conjunction with the considerable public interest in celebrities, indicate that it is unclear whether the public may have differing attitudes concerning two putatively different classes of great individuals. The first class might consist of heroes who might be defined as having produced ideas or objects of considerable and lasting importance to society, and who may or may not be well-known. The second class might be defined as celebrities, who are well-known but who are perceived as producing ideas or objects that have had less (or no) impact on society for a shorter period of time. The present research, therefore, aimed to provide some initial insight concerning those factors that might distinguish attitudes towards, and perceptions of, heroes and celebrities. Two studies were carried out. The first aimed to quantify attitudes towards heroes and celebrities and how these might differ from one another. The second study examined two factors that might explain why one particular person’s outputs might be regarded as important, whereas another person’s might be regarded as merely enjoyable.

Study I:

The first study investigated the difference between perceptions of heroes and celebrities. To the best of our knowledge, the only research on this issue has been carried out in China by Yue and Cheung. Cheung and Yue (2003) investigated the relationship between what they termed ‘idol worship’ (i.e. a keen interest in pop music stars and sportspeople) and teenagers’ performance while studying or working, identity achievement, and self-esteem. Findings indicated:

     The processes of illusory romance, reification, and vainglory
     orientation in idol worship as predictors of lower performance,
     identity achievement, and self-esteem in the teenager. Moreover, a
     teenager who had greater exposure to the image and voice of stars
     on television and radio would suffer lower identity achievement.
     With greater exposure, the teenager spent more money on idols. In
     contrast to these economic and developmental costs, enduring
     worship of family members, teachers, and other nonstars tended to
     benefit the teenager in terms of better performance and higher
     self-esteem. [Our emphasis] (p. 1)

More simply, there was some indication that the consequences of idol worship were different from those resulting from adulation of those non-famous people who were able to make a concrete contribution to the participants’ well-being.

Similarly, Cheung and Yue (2004) investigated any possible differences in the effects of modelling ‘luminaries’ (i.e. people who have made intellectual or moral achievements) and ‘stars’ (i.e. entertainment and sports stars). They found limited support for their contention that modelling oneself on luminaries should increase perceived self-efficacy whereas modelling oneself on stars should be much less beneficial in this respect (since modelling luminaries could contribute to participants’ intellectual and moral development).

Further indirect evidence of this apparent distinction is provided by Yue (2003) who asked undergraduate participants to nominate up to three of the most creative Chinese people. ‘Scientists, inventors, and to some extent, politicians were the most often nominated figures of creativity. Artists, musicians and entertainers were the least often nominated figures of creativity’ (p. 88). The same research also found some evidence of a ‘meritorious evaluation bias’ such that the more social merit and recognition a person earned, so the more creative their outputs are perceived as being. Consistent with Yue and Rudowicz (2002) found that when Chinese undergraduates were asked to nominate the most creative Chinese people, over 90% of nominations were accounted for by politicians, scientists, and inventors. Also, ‘artists/entertainers’ (i.e. painters, musicians, composers, pop singers, actors, sports stars, and comedians) accounted for a small proportion of the total number of nominations, even when the researchers distinguished between ‘modern’ and ‘historical’ figures. These findings were ‘attributed to a strong utilitarian view of creativity that lies in Chinese young people’s perception of creativity’ (p. 88). Again results such as these indirectly raise the possibility that the general public do indeed distinguish between those famous people who make significant social and cultural contributions and those who do not.

However of greatest importance for the present research, Yue and Cheung (2000) found three dimensions along which young Chinese participants’ attitudes towards heroes and celebrities differed, namely idealism-realism, romanticism-rationalism, and absolutism-relativism. ‘Idealism, romanticism, and absolutism were more important in idol [i.e. celebrity] selection whereas realism, rationalism, and relativism were more important in model [i.e. hero] selection’ (p. 91). The present research aimed to investigate this issue among a Western sample by investigating the nature of attitudes to heroes and celebrities and any differences between these.

The present study also investigated one further related issue. Another distinction between heroes and celebrities may be the field of production in which they work. This may be partly due to some fields (e.g. politics) being simply better placed to have a lasting and wide-ranging impact on society than are others (e.g. acting); whereas other fields are better placed to be immediately entertaining (e.g. comedy) than others (e.g. science). In short, we might expect heroes to emanate from ‘serious’ fields of production and celebrities to emanate from less serious fields, particularly entertainment and the media.

Results and discussion

A factor analysis was carried out on participants’ responses to the 13 questions concerning their attitude toward their favourite hero. Varimax rotation yielded three factors with eigenvalues greater than 1 and these are detailed in Table 1. Factor 1 contains relatively high positive loadings for ‘when I think of something good that happened to him/her it puts me in a good mood for the next hour or so’, ‘I believe that if we met we would be very close friends’, and ‘I feel I know him/her personally’, and negative loadings for ‘he/she has some characteristics I wouldn’t want’, and ‘although I admire him/her, I don’t feel an emotional attachment to him/her’. This suggests that Factor 1 might be labelled as emotional attachment. Factor 2 contains relatively high positive loadings for ‘I like to look at pictures of him/her’, ‘I love to read or watch TV programmes about him/her’, ‘it would mean a lot to me if he/she knew I existed’, and ‘I would love to live his/her life’. This suggests that Factor 2 might be labelled as drive for affiliation. Factor 3 contained a high loading for ‘in some ways he/she is ordinary’ and so might be labelled as ordinariness.

A factor analysis was carried out on participants’ responses to the 13 questions concerning their attitude toward their favourite celebrity. Varimax rotation yielded three factors with eigenvalues greater than 1 and these are detailed in Table 2. Factor 1 contains relatively high positive loadings for ‘it would mean a lot to me if he/she knew I existed’, ‘I like to learn his/her personal habits’, ‘I often think about him/her, sometimes without meaning to’, and ‘when I think of something good that happened to him/her it puts me in a good mood for the next hour or so’. As such, this factor is similar to the second factor identified in the analysis of responses to heroes and might be labelled as drive for affiliation. Factor 2 contains a relatively high loading for ‘he/she has some characteristics I wouldn’t want’, and negative loadings for ‘I believe his/her opinion to be always right’ and ‘I believe that if we met we would be very close friends’, such that this factor might be labelled as disdain. Factor 3 contains a relatively high loading for ‘in some ways he/she is ordinary’ and might be labelled as ordinariness.

Two hundred and seventy-eight participants felt able to give an answer when asked to state whether they ultimately preferred their favourite hero or favourite celebrity, and their answers were used to divide the participants into two groups labelled hereafter as hero fans (N = 170) and celebrity fans (N = 108), respectively. A one-way MANOVA was then used to compare these two groups on factor scores concerning attitudes toward the participant’s favourite hero. The result of this was significant, F(3,274) = 6.72, p < .001. Univariate statistics indicated significant differences between the two groups on scores for Factor 1 (emotional attachment) and Factor 2 (drive for affiliation), F(1,276) = 6.26, p < .05 and F(1,276) = 13.70, p < .001, respectively. On Factor 1, the mean for hero fans was .108 whereas the mean for celebrity fans was -.194. On Factor 2, the mean for hero fans was .198 whereas the mean for celebrity fans was -.235. Put simply, hero fans felt more emotional attachment and drive for affiliation towards their favourite hero than did celebrity fans.

This analysis was then repeated using factor scores concerning attitudes toward the participant’s favourite celebrity. The result of this was significant, F(3,274) = 4.45, p < .01. Univariate statistics indicated significant differences between the two groups on scores for Factor 1 (drive for affiliation) only, F(1,276) = 11.84, p = .001. On Factor 1, the mean for hero fans was -.146 whereas the mean for celebrity fans was .265. Put simply, celebrity fans felt more drive for affiliation towards their favourite celebrity than did hero fans.

The next analysis concerned participants’ selections of the fields in which their favourite hero and celebrity had achieved eminence. The five most frequently cited fields for heroes were politics (73 nominations, 24.4%), sport (28, 9.4%), science (27, 9.0%), religion (25, 8.4%), and music (20, 6.7%). In contrast, the five most frequently nominated fields for celebrities were acting (73, 24.4%), music (64, 21.4%), humour (14.4%), sport (42, 14.0%), and television presenting (14, 4.7%). Therefore, despite some overlap, it seems that heroes and celebrities emanate from different fields of endeavour.

Finally, the five most frequently nominated heroes and celebrities were calculated. The five most frequently cited heroes were Winston Churchill (23, 7.7%), Nelson Mandela (17, 5.7%), Martin Luther King (12, 4.0%), Diana Princess of Wales (10, 3.3%), and Jesus (10, 3.3%). The five most frequently cited celebrities were David Beckham (12, 4.0%), Billy Connolly (10, 3.3%), Michael Jackson (6, 2.0%), Sean Connery (5, 1.7%), and Robbie Williams (5, 1.7%). The most obvious distinction between these two lists is that the heroes had been born longer ago than were the celebrities, and that the heroes had ceased the activities that had won them acclaim. We return to this issue in Study 2 in considering the impact of a target person’s death on perceptions of their eminence.

Summary and conclusions

Study 1 aimed to determine whether attitudes towards heroes and celebrities differ. The data described above provide an initial indication that to some extent they do. In both factor analyses, Factor 1 explained the greatest proportion of variance in participants’ ratings by a considerable margin (accounting for 25.18% and 30.43% of the variance in ratings, respectively) with the specific nature of this factor differing considerably between the two analyses. With regard to heroes, Factor 1 was interpreted as emotional involvement, whereas with regard to celebrities, Factor 1 was interpreted as drive for affiliation. Furthermore, factor analysis showed that whereas attitudes towards the participants’ favourite hero were positive (in the case of the emotional attachment and drive for affiliation factors) or at worst ambivalent (in the case of the third factor, namely ordinariness), the second most important factor in explaining attitudes towards the participants’ favourite celebrities was negative (namely disdain). Finally, it is worth noting that there were nevertheless also some similarities in attitudes to heroes and celebrities. Both factor analyses revealed factors labelled drive for affiliation and ordinariness (although the percentage of variance explained by the former differed considerably between the two analyses).

It is also interesting to compare the nature of the differences obtained between both sets of factors with those identified among Chinese participants by Yue and Cheung (2000). To reiterate, the latter found that ‘idealism, romanticism, and absolutism were more important in idol [i.e. celebrity] selection whereas realism, rationalism, and relativism were more important in model [i.e. hero] selection’ (p. 91). However, the present study found that emotional involvement explained by far the greatest proportion of the variance in responses to heroes, which contrasts with the realistic and rational aspect of participants’ responses to these people identified by Yue and Cheung. The present participants’ responses to celebrities were more consistent with those of the earlier Chinese participants; drive for affiliation explained by far the greatest proportion of participants’ ratings, and this seems more consistent with the idealistic and romantic aspect of responses to these people identified by Yue and Cheung. More generally it is interesting that the factors identified by the present analyses had some similarities to, but were by no means identical to, those identified in earlier Chinese research; we return to this in the General Discussion below.

It is also interesting to compare other aspects of the present findings with the earlier Chinese research described above. For example, the present findings appear to confirm the suggestion implicit to Cheung and Yue (2003, 2004), that participants may have different relationships with heroes and celebrities respectively. As already described, Yue and Rudowicz (2002) found that over 90% of nominations given by Chinese participants concerning the most creative Chinese people were for politicians, scientists, and inventors (with similar findings being reported by Yue, 2003), and very few nominations concerned what the authors termed artists/entertainers. In contrast, when participants in the present research were asked to nominate their favourite heroes only 24.4% of nominations concerned politicians and only a further 9.0% concerned scientists (with a negligible number of nominations for inventors). Furthermore, none of these fields of endeavour were among the top five nominated when the present participants were asked to state their favourite celebrity. Furthermore, the five most frequently nominated fields of endeavour for participants’ favourite celebrities (namely acting, music, humour, sport, and television presenting) correspond closely with the kinds of artists/entertainers that were not present among Yue and Rudowicz’s nominations for the most creative (Chinese) people. Contrasting findings such as these could simply be attributable to slight differences in the kind of people that participants were asked to nominate, but, as Yue and Rudowicz (2002) noted, a further possibility is that the Chinese participants had utilitarian view of creativity that was not reflected among their British counterparts.

There was also evidence that participants believed that heroes and celebrities emanate from differing fields of achievement. Consistent with our earlier tentative hypothesis, it seems that the very nature of certain fields of endeavour predisposes outputs to have the longer-term, wide-ranging implications for society associated with greatness, whereas the nature of other fields is associated with outputs that are, although enjoyable, unlikely to be of longer term, wide-ranging cultural significance.

Study II:

Study 1 imposed on participants the definition of heroes as people who make profound, significant contributions to society. Study 2 did not impose any such definitions on participants and investigated a slightly different issue: what factors might lead to a person’s outputs being perceived as profound and insightful (such that the creator deserves the status of hero), rather than merely enjoyable (such that the creator deserves the status of celebrity)? Study 2 used a vignette to manipulate two factors that may influence the extent to which an individual’s output is perceived as both important and/or enjoyable.

We are not aware of any research directly on this issue, although studies by Farnsworth (1969) and North and Hargreaves (1995) may have some indirect relevance. Both studies addressed the role that the death of the great musicians in question may have played in determining the extent to which they were revered. Farnsworth (1969, p. 60) reported that there was ‘no significant relationship between the relative eminence of the men in this highly selected list [of classical music composers] and elapsed time since birth or death.’ However, North and Hargreaves (1995) identified a so-called ‘reverence for the recent’ effect in the eminence of pop musicians: those musicians who had achieved fame recently were judged as more eminent than were those who were older or dead, and this might be regarded as counter-intuitive. Conclusions such as these are particularly interesting, given the findings of Study 1, which indicated that the most frequently nominated heroes were born earlier than the most frequently nominated celebrities and had ceased activities in their particular field of endeavour. This again suggests the possibility that the death of the person concerned may be related to the perception of their ‘worthiness’. Accordingly, the first factor investigated by the present research was the effect of death on the perceived profundity of a person’s output. It is noteworthy that this factor has also been considered frequently by the media, which suggests that it may be prevalent in public perceptions of greatness.

Frequent media commentary was the source of a second factor investigated by the present research: although there is again a dearth of empirical evidence, the present study investigated the impact of the moral tone of a person’s conduct while alive on perceptions of the significance of their output. It is worth noting that several studies indicate that providing prestigious descriptions of various stimuli prior to their presentation can lead to the perception of them as being more significant (see e.g. Crozier, 1997): it is therefore possible to speculate that good conduct on the part of the producer may also serve as a source of this ‘high prestige’ information.

Further grounds for investigating the moral tone of a person’s conduct are provided by research on the so-called ‘negativity effect’ in impression formation (see review by Van Overwalle & Labiouse, 2004). For example, DeBruin and Van Lange (2000) found that impression formation was guided more by information concerning a target person’s morality than by information concerning that person’s ability. Furthermore, negative information concerning morality was particularly powerful. Similar recent findings have resulted from laboratory studies (Martijn, Spears, Van Der Pligt, & Jakobs, 1992), research on voting behaviour (Peters, 2003), and consumer research (Ahluwalia, 2002) among others. Singh and Teoh (2000) argue that negative information about a particular behaviour can be particularly powerful when judging the morality of certain acts (e.g. Birnbaum, 1972; Reeder & Spores, 1983), or the likeableness of personality traits (e.g. Birnbaum, 1974; Singh, Onglatco, Sriram, & Tay, 1997). They propose two explanations for this, namely that negative behaviours pose a threat to the survival/well-being of the person making the judgment, and also that negative moral behaviours are more informative (since they violate behavioural norms). Although a detailed consideration of matters such as these is beyond the scope and aims of the present research, it seems clear that negative information concerning a person’s moral conduct may have a negative impact on subsequent evaluations of that person’s outputs.

Accordingly the present study manipulated the description of a pop musician in terms of two factors, namely death and the moral tone of conduct while alive, and asked participants to rate a song supposedly by this person. A musical stimulus was employed since this was the subject of some of the limited previous research described above. Although it was impossible to make any concrete hypotheses, it was predicted tentatively that the supposed death of the musician in question may increase the perceived profundity and importance of the song; whereas poor moral conduct while alive on the part of the musician may decrease the enjoyment that participants would (at least admit to) derive from the song.

Results and discussion

A 2 X 2 ANOVA was carried out to test for any effects of the status and conduct of the musician described in the vignette on ratings of liking for the song. None of the effects were significant. The same analysis was then carried out on participants’ ratings of the emotional significance of the song. There was no effect of the status of the musician, although there was a main effect of conduct, F(1, 88) = 4.24, p < .05, and an interaction between conduct and status, F(1, 88) = 7.83, p < .01. The means for this interaction are presented in Fig. 1. This indicates that when conduct was bad, then higher ratings were assigned if the musician was alive than dead; however when conduct was good, then higher ratings were assigned if the musician was dead rather than alive. In short, if conduct was good then death led to the music being perceived as more emotionally profound; if conduct was bad then death led to a greater denigration of the significance of the song.

Study 1 identified some interesting similarities and differences between the general public’s perceptions of heroes and celebrities. Study 2 provided some indication that the extent to which an individual’s achievements were regarded as significant (rather than merely enjoyable) could be mediated by death and their conduct while alive, consistent with research on person perception. These findings allow for some tentative theoretical explanations of the distinction between heroes and celebrities that have obvious implications for future research. First, the similarities and differences between the findings reported in Study 1, and those by Yue and Cheung (2000), indicate that cross-cultural factors may be important. In particular, in contrast with the earlier Chinese findings, the present data indicate that Western participants may be more likely to demonstrate emotional involvement with their heroes and some element of disdain toward their favourite celebrities. It is tempting to propose that differences such as these could emanate from differences between the two regions in terms of predominant political ideology and/or attitudes towards media freedom; and future research may investigate this further by considering the cultural roles of heroes and celebrities relative to international differences in factors such as conservatism. Furthermore, it is worth noting that both Yue (2003, Study 1) and Yue and Rudowicz (2002) obtained differences in data obtained from participants based in different regions of China. People’s relationships with both heroes and celebrities may differ not only between countries but also between specific cultural groups within the same country.

Second, Study 1 indicated that differing fields are differentially able to produce heroes and celebrities. Nevertheless, future research could investigate whether such a conclusion may be too deterministic. For example, the role of cinematic propaganda in mediating public mood during the 1930s and 1940s (e.g. Riefenstahl’s pro-Nazi newsreel propaganda) implies that works presented to the public as ‘entertainment’ can have effects of enduring significance for society as a whole, but that these effects may not be so immediately apparent as in other fields of endeavour. More specifically we might expect that the broader cultural significance of a piece of art, for example, may take longer to become recognized if the messages it contains are more complex or more deeply encrypted within the work (see, for example, Martindale, 1990). For example, the cultural significance of such an overtly anti-war work as Picasso’s La Guernica is much more readily apparent and better placed to have an immediate cultural impact when compared with pieces in which such sentiments are less overtly represented.

Study 2 provides some further indication concerning what may distinguish heroes from celebrities. In particular, death and the nature of conduct while alive were shown to mediate the perception of the target person’s ability to produce significant output. The apparent correspondence between this and the findings of research on person perception is particularly interesting. Research on the latter is far more advanced than that concerning heroes and celebrities; and the present encouraging findings suggest that future research on the distinction between heroes and celebrities may profitably draw on research on impression formation. However, in addition to the factors described above, several other related variables might intervene in the perception of greatness. First, the vignette employed in Study 2 described an incident of accidental death in which the target musician was not at fault. Death as the result of culpable behaviour (e.g. use of illegal drugs) might have a different impact on evaluations of the musician. Furthermore, different types of death and conduct may have different implications in different domains of achievement. Changing the target of the present vignette to, for example, a soldier or a politician may influence participants responses to the death or moral conduct of the person in question. Finally the nature of the stimulus to which participants are asked to respond might also influence their reactions. More specifically, we might expect that outputs either associated with, or produced by, an out-group member are more likely to be denigrated (see e.g. Rigg, 1948) and presumably reduce the perception of this person as a hero who produces significant outputs. In the meantime, the present research has established that some differences do exist between perceptions of what constitutes heroism and celebrity, and we hope that future research will be able to capitalize on some of the more theoretical issues raised by the present findings.

In 2005, the North American Journal of Psychology published a study titled Are celebrity-worshippers more prone to narcissism? A brief report:

What is the relationship between narcissism and the tendency to worship celebrities? In two separate studies, one conducted in the U. S., the other in the U. K., we administered the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), the Celebrity Attitude Scale (CAS), and the Self-liking/Self-competence Self Esteem Scale(SSSES) to a total of 343 participants. Self-esteem was positively correlated to two of the three CAS subscales in the U. K. sample, but was unrelated to any CAS subscales in the U. S. sample. With SSSES scores partialled out, the relationship between NPI scores and CAS scores was +.35 in the U. K. sample, but only +.14 in the U. S. sample. Two simultaneous multiple regressions were performed with each narcissism and self-esteem subscale used as independent variables, and the intense-personal and borderline pathological CAS subscale scores used as dependent variables. Four of the five NPI subscales were significantly and positively correlated with at least one CAS subscale score. Findings were explained in terms of the absorption-addiction model of celebrity worship.

Social critics have questioned the wisdom of heaping unwarranted adulation upon popular singers, movie and television stars, and professional athletes (Boorstin, 1961; Fishwick, 1969). Some have warned that celluloid celebrities have become poor substitutes for heroes (people who have accomplished great deeds), and that the latter are needed to model exemplary behavior for any society (Boorstin, 1961; Klapp, 1962). Some critics have also denigrated the followers of the celluloid celebrities, suggesting that they tend to be intellectually dull (Grossberg, 1992), lonely social misfits (Horton & Wohl, 1956), mildly unbalanced (Hinerman, 1992), or dangerous (Burchill, 1986). Until recently, the scientific study of celebrity-worshippers has been hindered by the lack of a reliable and valid measure of attitudes toward one’s favorite celebrity. The 22 and the 23-item versions of the Celebrity Attitude Scale (CAS) have been shown to have good psychometric properties over the course of several studies (see McCutcheon, Maltby, Houran, & Ashe, 2004 for extensive details). Consequently, a personality profile of the celebrity-worshipper has begun to emerge. For example, it appears as though celebrity -worshippers, those who score high on the CAS, tend to report poorer psychological well-being than non-worshippers (Maltby, McCutcheon, Ashe, & Houran, 2001). Furthermore, those who are more strongly attached to their favorite celebrity are likely to score lower on cognitive measures of creativity, general information, and critical thinking (McCutcheon, Ashe, Houran, & Maltby, 2003). This paints a somewhat unflattering portrait of the celebrity-worshipper.

Narcissism is recognized as a personality disorder by the American Psychiatric Association (1994). It is characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance and superiority, an excessive need for admiration, a lack of empathy, exploitative tendencies, and a sense of being entitled to special privileges. Consequently, the interpersonal relationships of narcissists fluctuate between contempt for others and over-idealizing them (Rhodewalt& Morf, 1995; Rosenhan & Seligman, 1989).

The research question we are asking here is: “What is the relationship between narcissism and the tendency to worship celebrities?” Narcissists may have favorable attitudes toward their favorite celebrities according to the following scenario. Narcissists are known to have difficulty maintaining social relationships because of their lack of empathy, their exploitative tendencies, and their demand for adulation. However, they might fare better in a parasocial relationship, one in which the narcissist forms an attraction to a celebrity; the typical celebrity-fan relationship is entirely one-sided, with the fan learning much about the celebrity through the mass media, but the celebrity remaining unaware of the existence of any particular fan (Horton & Wohl, 1956). A parasocial relationship might work well for the narcissist partly because the celebrity never gets the opportunity to learn the narcissist’s social shortcomings. If it is true that narcissists expect too much from social relationships, they might find a parasocial relationship with a celebrity to their liking because they would never get close enough to the celebrity to experience lowered expectations.

The problem with this positive scenario is that narcissists have other characteristics that suggest a negative scenario. For example, the extreme self-adulation might make it difficult to admire anyone else, including celebrities. Narcissists like to be domineering in social relationships (Morf & Rhodewalt, 1993; Raskin, Novacek, & Hogan, 1991), but opportunities to be domineering in a parasocial relationship with a celebrity are virtually nonexistent. Feelings of superiority make it difficult for them to defer to others (Wallace & Baumeister, 2002), yet deference seems to be implicit in the relationship between fans and celebrities.

Previous research suggests that celebrity-worshippers tend toward inferior performance, at least on cognitive variables (McCutcheon, Ashe, Houran, & Maltby, 2003), but narcissists sometimes exhibit superior performance, especially under certain conditions (Wallace & Baumeister, 2002). Research also shows that celebrity-worshippers tend to score “high” on measures of anxiety and depression (Maltby, McCutcheon, Ashe, & Houran, 2001), variables which are negatively related to self-esteem (Fleming & Courtney, 1984). Self-esteem, in turn, has been found to correlate moderately with measures of narcissism (Sedikides, et al., 2004; Wallace & Baumeister, 2002).

Finally, we note that the absorption-addiction model of celebrity worship holds that many worshippers are initially attracted to a celebrity partly for social reasons (McCutcheon, Maltby, Houran, & Ashe, 2004). However, narcissists typically find it difficult to maintain normal social relationships even under ordinary conditions; to do so when the focus of the group is on some celebrity, rather than the narcissist himself, might be especially difficult.

The results of the study:

The alpha coefficients for all three scales ranged from .72 to .92. Tables 1* and 2* show the mean scores and standard deviations of all the scales by sex. No significant difference was found for any of the scales by sex. Mean scores and standard deviations for both sexes combined on the three scales were computed for the Celebrity Attitude Scale (UK, M=41.05, SD=10.47; U.S., M=45.52, SD=12.80), for the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (U.K., M=9.02, SD=6.6; U.S., M=16.70, SD=6.9), for the Self-liking subscale of the Self-Esteem Scale subscale (U.K., M=22.58, SD=7.4; U.S., M=29.25, SD=6.8), and for the Self-competence subscale of the Self-Esteem Scale subscale (UK, M=22.58, SD=7.4; U.S., M=29.60, SD=3.5).

Among both samples, the correlation between total scores on the Celebrity Attitude Scale and total scores on the NPI, with the measures of self-esteem partialed out, were significant among the U. K. sample (r=.35, p<.01) but not significant among the U.S. sample (r=.14, p>.05).

Table 3* shows the Pearson product moment correlation coefficients computed between all the variables. Among the U.K. sample, in terms of the relationship between celebrity worship and narcissism and self-esteem, celebrity worship for entertainment/social reasons shares a significant positive relationship with one aspect of narcissism; authority. Celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons shares a significant positive correlation with all aspects of narcissism and self-esteem. Celebrity worship that demonstrates a borderline-pathology shares a significant positive correlation with all aspects of narcissism and self-esteem except the Narcissism Vanity subscale and SSSES Self-liking subscale.

Among the U.S. sample, the correlation was significant between celebrity worship for intense-personal reasons and the NPI Exploitativeness subscale (.24, p <.01). Celebrity worship for borderline-pathology reasons correlated .26 with NPI Self-sufficiency (p <.01) and .33 with Vanity (p< .01).

Because a number of aspects of either narcissism and self-esteem were related to intense-personal and borderline pathological celebrity worship, and there were a number of significant correlations between the narcissism and self-esteem scales, Table 4* shows the results of two simultaneous multiple regressions performed with each narcissism and self-esteem subscale used as independent variables, and the Intense-personal and Borderline pathological used as dependent variables. Included in these tables are the un-standardized regression coefficients (B), the standardized regression coefficients (B), the semi-partial correlations (sr2), r, r2 and adjusted r2.

In the U. K. sample, for Intense-personal celebrity worship, the regression statistic (r) was significantly different from zero (F (9,209) = 3.59, p<.01, with the exploitativeness narcissism subscale accounting for unique variance in intense-personal celebrity worship scores scores. For borderline-pathological celebrity worship, the regression statistic (r) was significantly different from zero (F (9,209) = 3.33, p<.01), with the Exhibition and Self-Sufficiency NPI subscales accounting for unique variance in borderline-pathological celebrity worship.

Within the U. S. sample, for Intense-personal celebrity worship, the regression statistic (r) was not significantly different from zero (F (9,104) = 1.18, p<.05, with exploitativeness accounting for unique variance in intense-personal celebrity worship scores. For borderline-pathological celebrity worship, the regression statistic (r) was significantly different from zero (F (9,104) = 4.65, p<.01), with the Vanity and Self-Sufficiency Narcissism subscales accounting for unique variance.


Our research sought to determine the relationship between celebrity worship and narcissism, using an American and a British sample. The means and standard deviations of the three measures were roughly similar to those obtained in previous studies (see McCutcheon, Maltby, Houran, & Ashe, 2004; Raskin & Terry, 1988; Rhodewalt & Morf, 1995; Tafarodi& Swann, 2001). Self-esteem measures correlated positively with all and significantly with almost all of the NPI subscales, as expected.

As a general rule the components of narcissism seem to be unrelated to the entertainment-social component of celebrity worship. However, for the U. K. sample, there were significant positive correlations between all seven of the NPI subscales and the two subscales of the CAS that are indicative of problem behavior (intense-personal and borderline pathological). The overall relationship remained significant even after self-esteem was partialled out. Apparently, one of the ways that narcissism is manifested is in the tendency to worship celebrities in ways that seem to be unhealthy, according to the absorption-addiction model of celebrity worship. This model is a theoretical outgrowth of an application of both Rasch scaling and traditional factor analyses applied to the CAS (McCutcheon, Maltby, Houran, & Ashe, 2004). It holds that people become interested in the lives of celebrities largely because the stories are entertaining and they provide a basis for social interaction with others. However, some persons become increasingly absorbed in the personal lives of celebrities to the point that it interferes with their own lives. At the highest level, the worshipper is tempted to perform acts that are clearly not in the best interest of the worshipper, suggesting that the worshipper has become “addicted” to his or her favorite celebrity.

In the U.S. sample the trend was in the same direction, but it was noticeably weaker. Of the 14 possible correlations between the seven NPI subscales and the CAS intense-personal and CAS borderline-pathological, 11 were positive. However, only three of the positive correlations were statistically significant. Furthermore, when self-esteem was partialed out, the overall relationship between narcissism and celebrity worship was non-significant.

Of particular interest is the relationship between NPI Exploitativeness and CAS intense-personal. Exploitativeness was the best predictor of CAS intense-personal scores in both samples. A cursory examination of both sets of items reveals that they are concerned with intense interpersonal interaction. Consider these items from the NPI Exploitativeness subscale: “I can make anybody believe anything I want them to,” “I find it easy to manipulate people,” and “I can read people like a book.” Consider these three items from the CAS intense-personal subscale: “I share with my favorite celebrity a special bond that cannot be described in words,” “I am obsessed by details of my favorite celebrity’s life,” and “I consider my favorite celebrity to be my soul mate.” Perhaps the connecting link is that narcissists are absolutely convinced that they have marvelous social skills. If only their favorite celebrity would give them a chance to demonstrate these skills, the celebrity would discover what a wonderful person the narcissist really is.

Scores on the NPI Exhibition subscale were significantly correlated with scores on the CAS borderline pathological subscale for the U. K. sample. Perhaps the obsession with being the center of attention, which seems to be at the root of exhibitionism, is also manifested in the attention one would get by performing an illegal favor for a celebrity or spending an outrageous sum of money to purchase a worthless object once owned or used by a celebrity (two of the three borderline-pathological subscale items).

Overall, problematic dimensions of celebrity worship appear to be positively correlated with the tendency to be narcissistic. This trend is more pronounced for the United Kingdom sample, and for the particular narcissistic dimensions of exploitativeness, self-sufficiency, and exhibition. Further research is needed to determine if age or culture best accounts for the cross-cultural differences we found.

In 2006, the North American Journal of Psychology published a study titled Exploring the link between attachment and the inclination to obsess about or stalk celebrities:

Insecure attachment to one’s parents has been shown to contribute to poor adjustment as an adult. We investigated whether insecure attachment in childhood is associated with attachment to celebrities and a tendency to approve of celebrity stalking behaviors. We measured childhood attachment, celebrity worship, and the tendency to condone celebrity stalking in 299 college students. Those who reported insecure attachments as children were more likely to condone behaviors indicative of celebrity stalking. Moreover, those who formed strong attachments to their favorite celebrities (celebrity worshippers) were more likely to condone celebrity stalking than those who were not as strongly attracted to their favorite celebrities. Contrary to the hypothesis, insecure attachment was not significantly associated with attraction to celebrities. Results are discussed in relation to the “Absorption-addiction” model.

Ainsworth’s attachment theory (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters,& Wall, 1978) has long enjoyed considerable popularity among developmental psychologists. Attachment theory posits that warm, responsive parenting produces infants who feel secure enough to explore their environment. Parents who are inconsistent in responding to their infants’ signals tend to produce children who are anxiously preoccupied with parental attention, and this reduces exploration. Parents who are cold and rejecting tend to produce children who eventually learn to avoid contact with their parents, exploring instead the “neutral world of things” (Ainsworth, et al., 1978, p. 310).

Attachment patterns formed in childhood have been hypothesized to have long-term behavioral effects (Greenberger & McLaughlin, 1998). In an oft-cited study, Hazan and Shaver (1987) found that adult romantic orientations were generally consistent with childhood attachments. Specifically, those who recalled having secure attachments with their parents tended to form secure attachments with their adult partners; those who recalled inconsistent or rejecting parents were less likely to be securely attached to their adult partners. Furthermore, Levitt, Silver, and Franco (1996) found that insecure attachment styles were significantly associated with being involved in a troublesome relationship.

If faulty childhood attachment predisposes one to form faulty adult romantic relationships, might it also contribute to other adult problems? Indeed, insecure attachments have been linked to symptoms of depression (Roberts, Gotlib, & Kessel, 1996; Van Buren & Cooley, 2002), relatively poor quality interactions between mothers and their own children (Crowell & Feldman, 1987), and difficulty in decoding social cues in adult voices (Cooley, 2005). If insecurely attached children are more likely to have relationship difficulties as adults, they might be tempted to form parasocial relationships. A parasocial relationship is one in which person A is attracted to person B, but person B is usually unaware of the existence of person A (Horton & Wohl, 1956; Rubin, Perse, & Powell, 1985). Such a relationship, common to celebrities and their fans, might be appealing to the insecurely attached individual because it makes few demands. The fan does not usually have a “real” relationship with a celebrity, so the fan does not run the risk of criticism or rejection unless he or she seeks contact with the celebrity (Ashe & McCutcheon, 2001).

Many fans are attracted to celebrities for entertainment and/or social reasons (Maltby, Houran, & McCutcheon, 2003), but a substantial number become intensely absorbed in the personal lives of their favorite celebrities (McCutcheon, Ashe, Houran, & Maltby, 2003), and a small number engage in behaviors that might be characterized as pathological (Dietz, et al., 1991; Giles, 2000; McCutcheon, Maltby, Houran, & Ashe, 2004).

McCutcheon, Lange, and Houran (2002) developed an “Absorption-addiction” model to explain celebrity worship. According to this model many celebrity worshippers never go beyond the relatively benign initial stage of admiration for celebrities because of their social or entertainment value. However, a compromised identity structure in some persons facilitates “absorption with a celebrity in order to establish an identity” (p. 1476). Such persons go beyond the entertainment/social stage to become increasingly absorbed by and addicted to their favorite celebrity. They are likely to agree with such items as “I consider my favorite celebrity to be my soul mate,” and “I have frequent thoughts about my celebrity, even when I don’t want to,” items found on the intense-personal subscale of the 23-item Celebrity Attitude Scale (CAS; Maltby, McCutcheon, Ashe & Houran, 2001). People who hold such beliefs appear to be obsessed with and compulsive about their favorite celebrity. Not surprisingly, there is evidence that they are unwilling or unable to be flexible (Maltby, Day, McCutcheon, Martin, & Cayunas, 2004).

Stalking has been defined as “the willful, malicious, and repeated following and harassing of another person that threatens his or her safety” (Meloy & Gothard, 1995, p. 258). Stalkers appear to be obsessed with thoughts about their victims and often engage in repetitive behaviors designed to attract the attention of their victims (Cupach & Spitzberg, 1998). A recent study (Maltby, Day, McCutcheon, Houran, & Ashe, in press) found that scores on a measure of obsessive-compulsive disorder correlated significantly with revised measures of the CAS-intense-personal and CAS-borderline-pathological (but not the entertainment-social subscale). Stalkers sometimes behave irrationally, even violently, toward their victims, in ways that clearly reflect an underlying psychopathology (Cupach & Spitzberg, 1998). Those who score high on the borderline-pathological subscale of the CAS endorse irrational items such as “If I were lucky enough to meet my favorite celebrity, and he/she asked me to do something illegal as a favor, I would probably do it.” It seems reasonable to think that stalkers would be a subset of persons who would score high on the intense-personal and borderline pathological subscales of the CAS, and that high scorers on these two subscales would be more likely than low scorers to endorse pro-stalking attitudes.

Keinlen (1998) and McCann (2001) have hypothesized that insecure attachment patterns may lead to stalking behavior in adolescence and adulthood. Kienlen (1998) suggested that the motivations of insecurely attached individuals may differ according to the type of insecure attachment. The anxious/ambivalent (a.k.a. preoccupied/fearful) individual tends to have a tenuous sense of self worth and exhibits anxiety over social rejection. The anxious/ambivalent stalker would therefore be motivated to seek the approval of the attachment object. The avoidant (a.k.a. dismissing) individual tends to maintain emotional distance from others. Rather than seeking approval, the avoidant stalker may be more likely to pursue the attachment object in order to retaliate against a perceived wrongdoing.

There has been a considerable amount of publicity given to accounts of individuals who have stalked celebrities prior to harming them (Dennison & Thomson, 2002). We now know that stalkers are more likely to victimize persons with whom they have had “real” rather than parasocial relationships (Logan, Leukefeld, & Walker, 2000). On the other hand, stalkers do occasionally select celebrities as targets (Dietz, et al., 1991; Giles, 2000). Consequently, we believe that it is important to further our understanding of the relationships between attachment style and the tendency to condone behaviors that many would regard as indicative of celebrity stalking.

Specifically, we hypothesized that 1) adults who reported an insecure attachment style as children would report being more attracted to their favorite celebrities than securely attached adults for the “wrong” reasons (i.e., Because they were absorbed in the personal lives of their favorite celebrities and/or because their attitudes toward their favorite celebrity bordered on psychopathology). We also hypothesized that 2) adults who reported an insecure attachment style as children would be more likely to condone stalking and obsessive behaviors directed toward celebrities than adults who reported a secure attachment style. We further hypothesized that 3) greater attraction to celebrities for the “wrong” reasons would be positively related to scores condoning stalking and obsessive behaviors directed toward celebrities.

The results:

Means and standard deviations for the measures used in this study are reported in Table 1. All three CAS subscales correlated positively with each other (all correlations significant at p <.001; see Table Two). Furthermore, these correlation coefficients, along with means and standard deviations for the three subscales of the CAS are consistent with previous studies using the same instrument (McCutcheon, Maltby, Houran & Ashe, 2004). The mean (23.49) and standard deviation (7.0) obtained in the present study for the ORI & CS are similar to the mean (26.20) and standard deviation (7.2) obtained in the pilot study. Since the PBI-C and the RQ both attempt to measure security of attachment to one’s parents, we expected and found a highly significant positive relationship between scores on these measures (r = .64, p < .001). Together, these findings suggest that our participants responded thoughtfully and carefully to the items on each scale.

We regressed age, sex and marital status as predictors of each of the six measures we used. Multiple Rs for CAS-ES (.13), CAS-IP (.13), CAS-BP (.05), RQ (.08), and PBI-C (.125) were all non-significant. The multiple R for ORI & CS (.23) was significant at the .001 level. The effect was due to sex and age, but not marital status, such that males were slightly more likely to endorse celebrity stalking and older participants were less likely to endorse it. On the whole, the results of these six multiple regressions suggest that age, sex, and marital status are not major predictor variables in the present study.

Hypothesis one was that adults who reported an insecure attachment style as children would report being more attracted to their favorite celebrities than those who reported a secure attachment. We qualified this prediction by limiting it to those who felt an attraction to their favorite celebrity for what would be the “wrong” reasons, according to the “Absorption-addiction” model. This hypothesis was not supported. All four correlation coefficients between our two measures of attachment, RQ and PBI-C, and CAS-IP and CAS-BP were negative, as predicted, but none were significant (see Table two). It should be noted that scores on the entertainment-social subscale were also weakly and negatively correlated with both the RQ and PBI-C. Thus any relationship between the tendency to worship celebrities and security of childhood attachment, if there is one, is extremely weak and seems to apply equally to all three CAS subscales.

Hypothesis 2 posited that adults who reported an insecure attachment style as children would be more likely to condone stalking and obsessive behaviors directed toward celebrities than adults who reported a secure attachment. Scores on the ORI & CS were negatively and significantly related to scores on both the RQ (-.16) and the PBI-C (-.20), thus providing support for the hypothesis (see Table 2). Do insecure childhood attachments predispose one to become a stalker, as suggested by Keinlen (1998) and McCann (2001)? It seems reasonable to assume tentatively that those with a history of insecure attachment who also condone stalking would be more likely to engage in stalking.

Why were insecurely attached persons more likely to endorse stalking-like behaviors directed toward celebrities? Attachment theory maintains that anxious/ambivalent, (aka preoccupied/fearful) types are more likely to be needy, socially demanding, and to cling to others (Sable, 1997). Consistent with this theory, Davis, Ace, and Andra (1998) studied couples that had broken up and found that anxious/ambivalent types were indirectly linked to self-reported stalking behavior, if there was a high degree of anger about the dissolution of the relationship. Dye and Davis (2003) found a positive relationship (.26) between anxious attachment and a measure of stalking behavior. Keinlen (1998) suggested that avoidant or dismissing insecure types are also predisposed to stalking behaviors, especially when the individual exhibits antisocial personality traits. Although they do not seek social relationships as a rule, the avoidant individual may react to perceived rejection with rage. Stalking, in this case, becomes a means of retaliation. Further research on insecure attachments and stalking behaviors should strive to determine the motivations for stalking behaviors in order to test whether the motivations differ by the type of insecure attachment.

Hypothesis three was that greater attraction to celebrities for the “wrong” reasons (absorption & addiction) would be positively related to scores condoning stalking-like behavior directed toward celebrities. Scores on CAS-IP (r = .35, p < .001) and CAS-BP (r = .25, p< .01) correlated significantly with ORI & CS scores, thus supporting our third hypothesis (see Table 2).

However, scores on the CAS-ES were also correlated (r = .25, p< .01) with ORI & CS scores (See Table 2). There are at least two possible interpretations for this latter finding. One is that being attracted to celebrities because of entertainment and social reasons may not be as benign as suggested by the “Absorption-addiction” model. Evidence bearing on this point is unclear. For example, one study showed that high scores on CAS-ES were linked to extraversion, a relatively neutral trait, while scores on CAS-IP and CAS-BP were linked to neuroticism and psychoticism, respectively (Maltby, et al., 2003). On the other hand, the CAS-ES was linked with social dysfunction and depressive symptoms in another study (Maltby, et al., 2001).

A second interpretation calls into question the reliability, and thus indirectly the validity, of CAS-BP. We note that alpha for this subscale in the present study was only .65, and that alphas in other studies have been consistently lower than alphas for the other two CAS subscales (McCutcheon, et al., (2004). Perhaps a better measure of CAS-BP would have yielded a stronger correlation with ORI & CS. Hopefully, such a finding would have separated both CAS-IP and CAS-BP from CAS-ES and been more consistent with the “Absorption-addiction” model.

Recently a 7-item revision of the CAS-BP used in England has resulted in slightly higher alpha reliabilities (.70 & .74). Perhaps more importantly it correlated significantly (as did a slightly revised version of CAS-IP, but not a slightly revised version of CAS-ES) with such indicators of possible pathology as obsessive-compulsive disorder, fantasy proneness, dissociation, and ego identity (Maltby, et al., in press). One possible direction for future research is a conceptual replication of the present study on American participants, using the revised CAS-BP. Another direction that might prove useful is the continued development and validation of the ORI & CS. Based on the pilot study and the present one it shows promise. If it can be shown to distinguish persons who have a history of stalking behavior from those who do not, it might prove to be especially useful for both research and clinical purposes.

In the September 2010 issue of Society, published an article titled Why the celebrity cult?:

The celebrity phenomenon is historically new and closely tied to modernity. There always used to be famous, widely respected or admired people but celebrities are something new and different; their numbers are huge and fluctuate and their fame is transient; most importantly unlike famous people of the past they achieve their acclaim in different ways and for different reasons. Their presence and profusion in present day American society–and in some others influenced by American culture–sheds light on broader social and cultural conditions and trends.

The most important questions raised by this phenomenon are the following: Who are they and how do they become celebrities? How do celebrities differ from the famous of the past? What does the celebrity status entail? Why is there a great demand for them? Are there certain social, cultural or historical conditions conducive to, or required for the rise of celebrities? Why is the celebrity a modern phenomenon?

Rarely is it spelled out what precisely makes celebrities interesting, admirable or worthy of the attention lavished on them, or if there are any self-evident qualities or attributes they have in common which compel the attention and admiration they receive. From the earliest days of my life in this country (where I arrived half a century ago as a graduate student) I found the phenomenon at once perplexing and morbidly fascinating. In those early days of my life in this country I was unfamiliar with and unaware of the distinctions between fame and celebrity. At first the phenomenon seemed limited to entertainers whose popularity knew no bounds and whose presence at times reduces worshipful audiences to seemingly hysterical seizures and altered state of consciousness. The mere presence of these people, the celebrities of the entertainment world, seemed to inspire uncontrollable emotional outbursts, veritable seizures of enthusiasm, fervor and admiration, sometimes tears.

It is significant and telling of priorities in American society that the lives and death of entertainers (most of whom provide the ranks of celebrities) are more extensively and prominently covered in the news media than major historical or political events.

Celebrity spotting/watching is a popular pastime of Americans who are anxious to see and “rub shoulders with” celebrities in restaurants, bars, places of entertainment or resorts. Resorts and places of entertainments sometimes actually advertise the prospect of meeting or seeing celebrities, apparently a source of great pleasure and self-fulfillment for many Americans. For example an article in The New York Times Travel Section recently assured its readers that in St Moritz (Switzerland) “despite the scent of exclusivity … you are free to mingle” with celebrities such as “supermodels, business tycoons, former heads of state … the rich, the very rich, the royals and those who want to marry a royal.” A nightclub in the same location was described as a “celebrity haunt” providing” your opportunity to rub shoulders” with these impressive individuals. It would make an interesting study to find out why such ogling, mingling and rubbing of shoulders is such a self evident source of gratification for so many Americans (and not only Americans). Perhaps it is due to the belief that temporarily sharing the same physical space with celebrities will add an exciting dimension to one’s recreational activities, and elevate one’s social status. The recent brazen crashing of a White House social event by an uninvited couple was a good example of the length some people will go to in order to satisfy such cravings.

The concept and phenomenon of celebrity has been a peculiar product of American culture and society, something truly American to begin with that spread to other societies. To be famous and to be a celebrity are not the same although there is an overlap. We may define the celebrity as the person who is famous, or well known, for dubious reasons, or for no good reasons at all, and who often achieves such reknown by his or her own strenuous efforts. A talented actor may become a celebrity but so can one become without talent except the talent for self-promotion. By contrast many highly talented and creative individuals are not celebrities. Great scientists, most great writers, most musicians playing classical music are not celebrities, but those playing popular music very often are. Scientists do not provide entertainment and their skills and accomplishments are difficult to emulate or duplicate; nor are they uniformly good looking or funny. Looks are important for celebrities and they cultivate some aspect of their appearance that becomes their “trademark” improving their visibility or recognizability. Vast amounts of publicity, a high degree of egomania and some attention-getting trait or activity are among the prerequisites of becoming as celebrity.

The majority of celebrities are entertainers but the celebrity status is open to many different occupations or callings: models and super models, fashion and interior designers. TV anchors, talk show hosts, “TV personalities,” athletes, beauty queens, famous hostesses and society ladies (“socialites”), members of the rich upper classes, occasionally a politician (or his wife), even some criminals may join their ranks. But many of these other categories also provide entertainment: athletes, beauty queens, hostesses, histrionic politicians.

Some celebrities are hard to classify such as Puff Daddy (Sean Combs) “rap impresario, restaurateur, clothing entrepreneur, bon vivant, actor, Page 6 regular” as he was described in a New Yorker article devoted to him. It is even more difficult to establish the celebrity credentials of Paris Hilton, prominent socialite, playgirl and notorious for appearing in a video chronicling some of her sexual activities. There are also academic celebrities such as Cornell West known not only for his philosophical ruminations but his readiness to dip into popular culture as a performer. Norman Mailer appeared in movies and ran for office in his spare time. Susan Sontag made movies. It helps to be a renaissance man or woman in the search for celebrity status.

But what do all these people have in common that explains their elevated and celebrated social-cultural status? And how do they differ from the famous if there is a difference?

Daniel Boorstin half a century ago, put his finger on the differences. As he pointed out anybody could become a celebrity in America if he or she found a way to become well known. But to become well known in our times came to require different attributes or capabilities than used to be the case in the past (or in other societies). In our times people become well known without being heroic, without displaying human attributes which used to be widely admired or respected–courage, dignity, generosity, intelligence, inventiveness, unselfishness. Today it is possible to become a celebrity without any substantial or genuine accomplishment which in the past was the foundation of the fame of statesmen, artists, scientists, explorers, musicians or composers. Moral qualifications in particular are unimportant and irrelevant–it is being well known that matters not moral character. This is not to deny that celebrities, once safely established as such, make occasional well publicized attempts to display moral virtues like adopting impoverished African children or donating to charities or participating in musical events for the benefit of some downtrodden group. But such gestures are not the basis of the celebrity status, rather they follow its attainment; they help to broaden the appeal of the celebrity and enrich his or her credentials.

Physical attractiveness often goes with being a celebrity especially if he or she is an entertainer. Celebrities have to be photogenic or otherwise noteworthy–they seek a carefully cultivated “trademark.” Unlike heroes, Boorstin wrote, they are “differentiated mainly by trivia of personality … Entertainers … are best qualified to become celebrities because they are skilled in the marginal differentiation of their personalities”. He further wrote: “The hero was distinguished by his achievement: the celebrity by his image or trademark … The celebrity … is always a contemporary. The hero is made by folklore, sacred texts and history books, but the celebrity is the creature of gossip, public opinion, of magazines, newspapers and the ephemeral images of movie and television screen. The passage of time, which creates and establishes the hero, destroys the celebrity.”

In the course of the past century Americans “discovered the processes by which fame is manufactured …” which allowed “a man’s name [to] become a household word overnight” Boorstin further observed. [Daniel J. Boorstin: The Image: A Guide to Pseudoevents in America, New York, 1961, pp. 61, 63, 47, 65] The person aspiring to become well known or a celebrity needs to generate huge amounts of publicity, his or her alleged or real accomplishments have to be made widely known, his image and “trademark” attributes widely disseminated. People could not become widely known and kept in public awareness without the use of technological devices: the printing press, photography, movies, radio, television, computers. There are also organizational requirements and techniques harnessed to the pursuit of the celebrity status. Public relations firms, agents, photographers and journalists provide services to those aspiring to (or seek to preserve) the celebrity status–they create the publicity that is its essential precondition. Many people make their living from following around celebrities and reporting about the trivia of their life and especially their clothing and modes of consumption and their often scandalous (but all the more attention getting) love life.

Two basic social conditions and ideals of American culture have been the foundation of the rise of the celebrities. One is individualism and the other egalitarianism. The former entails a sense of entitlement, limitless mobility aspirations and an expansive conception of the self; the latter helps to convince the aspirants that no special talent or qualification is required to ascend to celebrity status: some gimmick, trademark, strenuous effort and attention getting activity or self-presentation may do. In an egalitarian society where the criteria for distinction or distinctiveness is not authoritatively established distinction is sought in a wide variety of ways (some of them quite peculiar) including patterns of consumption and their conspicuous display. Most often attention-getting self-presentation is harnessed to the pursuit and retention of the celebrity status. Certain gestures, ways of speaking, hair styles, facial expressions, items of clothing–anything that can be defined as a “trademark” is eagerly made use of, part of the “marginal differentiation” of the personality Boorstin made reference to.

The pursuit and cult of celebrity status may also signify an advanced stage in the degeneration of individualism associated with delusional notions about the uniqueness and great potentials of every single individual. Correspondingly egalitarianism degenerates into moral, ethical and aesthetic relativism. Who is to say what or who deserve to be celebrated o even worshiped? In an egalitarian society a large number of people believe not only that they can all get rich, but also that they can all become celebrities and deserve vast amounts of public attention. Being rich is not the main point of seeking this much desired social status although it is hard to find impoverished celebrities. In any event being very well known, or “visible,” as celebrities are, sooner or later translates into high income whether in entertainment, athletics or advertising.

Why the proliferation of celebrities in America, in modern societies? They are certainly an integral part of popular culture, since most of them are entertainers. The very existence of popular culture assures, demands a steady supply of celebrities. The diminished ability of the public to distinguish between genuine and durable accomplishment is another important explanation of the phenomenon.

Aspiring and achieving celebrity status is supremely gratifying–being a great success and being a celebrity are synonymous. The celebrity is assured of a high income, a privileged social status, recognition and vast amounts of attention. Arguably celebrities are admired not so much for their (questionable) talents, beauty, wealth and ways of life but because the are recipients of vast amounts of attention in a society where a great many people are starved for attention and are convinced that they get less than they deserve. Ordinary people eagerly submit to the humiliations of talks shows where they are expected to reveal and wallow in their mental, physical or social ailments, deformities and misfortunes to entertain their audiences and bask in a few minutes of publicity. The super-celebrity, Oprah, owes her fame to her talk shows which present both anonymous and already well known people often of no obvious accomplishment.

The entertainment orientation of American society and culture is the other major explanation of the phenomenon here discussed. Entertainers are popular and easily ascend to the celebrity status and often are taken far more seriously than they deserve to be, for example when asked to testify at Congressional hearings about weighty public-political matters of which they know little. Their views are earnestly solicited because of their popularity and because politicians seek to increase their own popularity and visibility by associating with celebrities.

Celebrities also serve economic functions: they are essential for popularizing and promoting products of popular culture and they help to sell a wide variety of goods and services by endorsing them in advertisements. Not only are many celebrities entertainers by virtue of their occupation but it was even asserted (“absurdly” as Michiko Kauktani rightly observed) by an academic author that “celebrity is the ‘great art form of the 21st century.’ Celebrity he argues ‘competes with–and often supersedes–more traditional entertainments like movies, books, plays and TV shows’ and it performs … ‘many of the of the functions those old media performed in their heyday: … distracting us, sensitizing us to the human condition and creating a fund of common experience around which we can form a national community'” (Quoted in Michiko Kakutani: “Texts Without Context” New York Times, March 21, 2010). These assertions were made by Neal Gabler, author, appropriately enough of Life: the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality.

The celebrity cult is also an attempt to identify with those who possess attributes missing from the lives of ordinary human beings: fame, wealth, vast amounts of attention, even adulation. In a populist, anti-elitist, socially mobile society a growing number of people feel entitled to fame, fortune, attention, power and special treatment. They have been indoctrinated by their culture and its educational institutions to believe that each and every individual has limitless potentials and that exclusive, hard-to-enter elite groups of the gifted represent some sort of a social injustice. Many unlikely individuals imbued with such beliefs ascend to the celebrity status by drawing attention to themselves sometimes by odd, dubious or even absurd ways, including spectacular criminal acts. Kidnappers, hostage takers, bank robbers and serial murderers often demand access to television to make statements about themselves before they surrender. Like the rest of us they wish to transcend anonymity.

Celebrity worship is a reflection of a moral and aesthetic relativism and insecurity many feel about their social status in a highly competitive and fluid society. The celebrity phenomenon reflects the American (or modern) uncertainty as to what kinds of activities, qualities or accomplishments deserve respect or admiration.

Last but not least a less obvious precondition of celebrity worship is the decline of community and the growth of social isolation that helps to nurture fantasies of having something in common with the rich and famous, with the celebrities. Such fantasies are classical expressions of false consciousness born out of the attempt to find vicarious meaning and fulfillment in the lives and privileges of others far removed from the circumscribed circumstances of ordinary Americans.

The same year, Society, published another article titled Celebrity culture:

The ascendancy of the celebrity is one of the distinctive features of late twentieth and early 21st century western culture. The apotheosis of the celebrity is not confined to the worship of movie idols, pop stars, sport heroes or even -those easily-disposable, banal, reality television constructions that compete for our attention. The term celebrity is not simply a noun but an adjective that signifies that someone possesses the quality of attracting attention. So we have celebrity chefs, celebrity authors, celebrity fiction, celebrity diets, celebrity workouts, celebrity psychiatrists, celebrity therapists and celebrity doctors. Success in virtually every profession is associated with a celebrity status. Those who command the largest fees in the legal profession are described as celebrity lawyers. Back in 2006, British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated that we need celebrity scientists to inspire young people. And even the ivory tower of higher education has been brought into the frame. Universities are encouraged to embrace this culture and the shameless self-promoter has been rebranded as a celebrity academic. It is evident that celebrity status is in some sense a marker of authority and that its influence transcends the world of day-time cable television and at least indirectly influences all sections of society.

Historical studies of celebrity claim that although that this phenomenon has a long history, it has become transformed through technological innovations such as the cinema, popular press, and television. These technologies have turned celebrities into object of mass consumption. There is also a qualitative distinction between the celebrity culture of the interwar era and its contemporary manifestation. The typical celebrity of the thirties or fifties was the movie star or the sporting hero. Today’s celebrities, who often lack accomplishment are often the product of cable or reality television and many disappear as fast they are constructed. The literature on this theme distinguishes between the exceptionally talented and “self made” stars and the “manufactured” and relatively unexceptional celebrities.

Whereas the first group gained their status through their superior talents and abilities the second have been manufactured and made famous through media publicity. Today’s celebrity is not simply a well-known person but a product of a cultural industry devoted to the fabrication of interchangeable stars. Critics of this process point to the trivialisation of public life through the assembly line production of instant celebrities. Others positively endorse the opportunities afforded by the mass production of celebrity status and represent it as a positive egalitarian development for providing access to fame to ordinary people.

What is distinctive about today’s celebrities is that they are promoted as both special and utterly ordinary. They are celebrated for their unique personality and attractive qualities while appearing to treat them as normal people facing the humdrum problems and disappointments of everyday life. Typically celebrities like Jennifer or Brad or Brittany are referred to by their first names. These are people that everyone knows or ought to know. This affectation of familiarity conveys the implication of the removal of social and cultural barriers between the celebrity and the consumer of popular culture and offers the promise of a relation of intimacy. Although they are not quite like ordinary people, their problems and predicaments are sufficiently familiar to everyman to allow for the forging of an emotional bond. Contemporary celebrity culture succeeds in transforming the powerful and the well-known into intimate and familiar figures. Through reducing the psychic distance between the public and the famous, the celebrity is drawn into the routine everyday experience.

Celebrities, especially the manufactured ones serve as the focus for gossip and exchange of information. Such gossip is not simply part of an isolated and arbitrary exchange between individuals but an integral constituent of a culture in which the narratives of everyday life are frequently recycled through conversations about celebrities. As Jane Johnson, a reporter for the popular British celebrity publication Closer observed: “celebrity gossip is a national obsession and a unifying experience across all social groups”. In recent years reality television shows like the X-Factor have emerged as both a distinctive and prominent feature of the national conversation in numerous western societies.

The commodification of celebrity culture both fuels and responds to a market for new but readily recognisable and reassuringly familiar celebrities. The creation and commodification of celebrities has itself become a source of popular fascination. Reality television self consciously constructs or invents celebrities in front of an audience. Indeed the audience is expressly afforded the opportunity to choose soon-to–be celebrities. Through this ritualised form of participation the public is encouraged to identify with and invest significant emotional capital in their chosen contestants.

Programmes like Big Brother, X-factor, Pop idol, Pop Stars, Fame Academy are in the business of actually involving the public in the production and the discarding of mass produced “over-night” celebrities. The easily-disposable celebrity symbolises the imperatives of mass consumer culture. Minor celebrities are mass produced and then devoured with extraordinary speed.

Contributions on this subject have pointed to a variety of themes associated with the emergence of this cultural phenomenon. Numerous writers have pointed to the rise of the celebrity-industrial complex, particularly the role of the media. Cable television and 24/7 coverage is often associated with the massification and commodification of the celebrity. Others have claimed that this culture is the outcome of an imperative towards a faux-egalitarianism which creates a demand for shallow distinctions between people and where attention-seeking acquires a powerful momentum. Some have seen the ascendancy of celebrity culture as reflecting a cultural shift from the valuation of character to that of personality. The celebrity victim, someone who gains fame for their failures, illness or misfortune has also fascinated numerous observers. The victim celebrity personifies a wider sense of powerlessness and estrangement and helps give meaning to the difficulty that many have in coping with the routine problems of existence. The fame that society accords to those who are prepared to disclose their private troubles and intimate thoughts is a development that has engaged the attention of writers on the growth of the confessional and therapeutic imagination.

In every reality television competition the critical moment comes when the contestant is asked questions like “what does this mean to you” or “how do you feel”? At that point celebrities–to-be are expected to share the kind of private feelings that resonates with the aspiration of audience to gain recognition. Their confessional affirms everyone’s craving to be recognised and normalises the aspiration for fame and distinction. In this way celebrities serve as moral guides for people’s expressive behaviour. That is why probably the most significant attribute of celebrity status is the role it plays in constitution of contemporary authority.

The Problem of Authority

Twenty-first century society has an uneasy relationship with the question of authority. Time and again we are confronted with the question: “whom can you trust?” People ask continually: “who is in authority?”, “who is the authority?”, “who can speak with authority?” or “on whose authority do you act?” Every controversy surrounding an act of misfortune–whether it is an outbreak of a flu epidemic, an environmental problem, a natural disaster, an accident or a financial crisis creates a demand for authoritative solutions. Yet this aspiration for authoritative answers coincides with a cultural sensibility that is profoundly suspicious of the exercise of authority. In contemporary times authority has a very bad press. Unmasking authority has become a fashionable enterprise that resonates with popular culture. Those who hold positions of responsibility and of power-politicians, parents, teachers, priests, doctors, nursery workers–are “exposed” continually for abusing their authority. That the term “authority” is associated so readily with the act of abuse is symptomatic of western society’s disenchantment with the so-called authority figure. It appears that we have become far more able to demonise authority than to affirm it. Consequently even those who are formally in authority hesitate about openly exercising their influence. In numerous businesses and public institutions this objective is accomplished through the now widely practised custom of outsourcing authority to consultants, experts and of course, celebrities.

One thing that is certain is that we cannot live without some form of authority. Those who reject some form of authority as illegitimate usually embrace others as acceptable. So, many critics of the teachers’ authority over the class room invite us to serve as “mentors”, “facilitators” or “role models” to children. In a world where the clergy is sometimes denounced for its authoritarian and abusive behaviour, it is the celebrity or the victim that is often endowed with moral authority. Some renounce all forms of public authority and recognise only the authority of the self. However the self, too, depends on the instructions and advice on the authority of the therapist and the expert. So although authority can be undermined it cannot be quite abolished. However when authority unravels it undermines public life and gives way to moral disorientation.

According to Max Weber one of the ways that communities respond to the erosion of customs, traditions and formerly authoritative institutions is through the charisma and personal attributes of unique individuals. Weber believed that even in a modern society charisma remained relevant as an external form of legitimation. Although historically charisma was based on heroism or revelation it can acquire different cultural forms. Celebrities may not possess heroic qualities but as highly visible role models they have become the object of imitation. Their highly publicized personality and individual qualities work as a form of quasi-charisma that has the quality of gaining people’s attention. According to Lawrence M. Friedman, authority “has been reshaped in the image of the celebrity”. Drawing on the cultural resources of the celebrity politicians, public figures even religious leaders attempt to cultivate the image of the popular, accessible public persona. Even the papacy has internalised elements of this influence. The large crowd of young people attracted to the funeral of Pope John Paul II in April 2005 were fascinated by the image of this religious superstar and treated the event as not unlike a pop-festival.

Celebrities today may lack the magical qualities traditionally associated with the status of charisma. And indeed often they appear as the very opposite of this Weberian ideal type. However their fame marks them out as unique and different to ordinary people “who are not known”. These are individuals who through some kind of magical process have become an exalted version of ourselves. Their authority lies not so much in their superior qualities but in the fact that they serve as a point of reference to others. In particular they serve as models for expressive behaviour. Like classical charismatic figures, celebrities are individuals who provide people with a focus for identification. But unlike the classical charismatics the celebrity lacks the mysterious transcendent leadership qualities of a prophet or hero. They are what they are–“role models” rather than authoritative leaders.

It is worth noting that there is a substantial body of academic literature that regards celebrity culture as on balance a positive development. Some hail it as an egalitarian alternative to the classic public sphere of the “privileged elite”. From this perspective the traditional ideals of “heroism, fame or genius” are associated masculine hierarchical values. In contrast, some contributors uphold celebrity culture on the grounds that it is inclusive and diverse, feminine, and providing an opportunity to air everyday theme themes that were once deemed trivial.

We are frequently informed that celebrities are inspiring role models for millions of young people or that voting for contestants on a Reality Television Show represents a successful example of political mobilisation of people who are otherwise switched off from public life. Typically advocates of contemporary popular culture regard people’s fascination and interest with celebrities as possessing the potential to connect with public life. The very fact that many celebrities are in many respects ordinary individuals, who have been forced to confront the normal problems faced by everyday folk is sometimes represented as an example of democratising public discourse. Some suggest that this is a positive development since it expands debate to issues that concern people who are otherwise switched off from public life. Consequently celebrities are frequently promoted as role-models who can engage millions of otherwise disengaged people in public life. This perspective plays an influential role in education and campaign oriented towards connecting with young people.

The project of mobilising the potential of celebrity culture for enhancing the quality of public life has proved to be a delusion. For example research in the UK shows that celebrity followers are three times less likely than others to be involved in community organisations and two times less likely to participate in volunteer work. One study concluded that those who followed celebrity culture were “those least likely to be politically engaged”. The relationship between political disengagement and the rise of celebrity culture is not a causal one–rather they both express a trend towards the disorientation of public life.

It is important to note that a role model is not quite a figure of authority. It is the decline of what Hannah Arendt has characterised as pre-political authority-parents, elders, teachers–that has led to a demand for individuals who can serve as models for behaviour. In this relationship, role models provide a focus for psychological identification but in a shallow and superficial manner. Imitation is a significant dimension of celebrity culture. People are not only encouraged to imitate a role model’s style of appearance but also their habits and emotional behavior.

Outsourcing Authority to the Celebrity

Given the influence of celebrity culture it is not surprising that politicians and public figures have sought to mobilise it to consolidate their position. Politicians self consciously attempt to either acquire a celebrity image or to associate themselves with individuals who possess this status. Celebrity politics gained significant momentum during the Clinton Presidency. Clinton successfully mobilised Hollywood personalities to add glamour to his regime. On the other side of the Atlantic, the election of Tony Blair as the Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1997 was followed by what came to be known as the “Cool Britannia” party at Downing Street. This social gathering of pop stars, actors, fashion designers and personalities aimed to endow the new Blair Regime with celebrity authority.

For their part celebrities are quite happy to use their authority and serve as the unelected leaders of a variety of causes. Hollywood has been in the forefront of raising public concern about the plight of Tibet and of Darfur. The Irish pop star Bono is the master of this form of celebrity colonialism. In recent years he has set himself up as the voice of Africa. At international summits prominent public figures such as former President George Bush and former Prime Minister Brown are more than happy to defer to Bono’s wisdom in exchange for a photo opportunity.

This parasitical relationship between political leaders and celebrity culture has acquired a peculiarly tawdry form in the UK. British politicians are even keen to be associated with off-the- shelf created celebrities to demonstrate that they are in touch with the mood of the public. Take the case of, Jade Goody was transformed from a 21 year old dental nurse to a mega celebrity after appearing on Big Brother. Although she was just a contestant and not a winner of Big Brother2 and developed a reputation for her crude manners, prejudice and ignorance, she was turned into a national brand. She was promoted as bubbly and irrepressible young woman who was prepared to do just about anything to be famous. In the media she was described as a Reality TV Star, which was another way of saying that she was famous for just being watched. When she was diagnosed with cancer her public status was further enhanced by her celebrity illness. After her death in March 2009, Gordon Brown, the then Prime Minister took it upon himself to lead the tributes to her, praising Jade Goody as a “courageous woman”. Nor could Brown resist the temptation of appearing in American Idol in a recorded message. In the meantime, his wife Sarah gained a reputation as a celebrity groupie. “Loved Paris Hilton who I met last week in LA for the first time”, wrote Sarah Brown on Facebook earlier this year. “Nothing about her public image prepares you for the first meeting. She’s a smart, caring, considerate person. Who knew?” Paris obliged by returning the favour; “Just had an amazing conversation with Sarah Brown, Gordon Brown’s wife,” she twittered live from their intimate encounter. Paris added “she is such a smart, beautiful, inspirational woman”. The public embrace of Paris Hilton by the wife of the British Prime Minister indicates the significance that the political elite attach to being identified with the glamour of the celebrity.

The outsourcing of conventional authority to celebrities represents one of the most disturbing developments in public life. Celebrities are often recycled as moral and political leaders who possess the authority to lecture people about how to conduct their life. In Britain, the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver was endowed with prophet like status and assigned the role of saving the nation’s children from the scourge of junk food. This celebrity was acclaimed by both the Prime Minister and the Queen and parliamentarians frequently cited his statements to show that they too had seen the light. Although unelected and unaccountable, celebrities enjoy some of the deference lost by conventional authority. Thus they are ideally placed to lead campaigns and moral crusades. The examples of Robert Redford campaigning against nuclear waste dumping or Charlton Heston advocating the rights of gun ownership shows that the influence of the celebrity transcends the ideological division between left and right.

Today all forms of authority have been called into question. The powerful mood of cynicism towards authority is not simply directed at a particular group of politicians, scientists or public figures. The sentiment signalled by this mood of suspicion is the stigmatisation of all types of formal authority. In such circumstances authority finds it difficult to gain public legitimacy in a coherent and institutionalised form. Individuals who are charged with exercising authority are confused and defensive about their role. Instead of acting authoritatively they often go through the motion of playing their role. It is such circumstances that celebrities have gained a significant degree of moral status. These quasi-charismatic figures do not have to justify their moral status. Celebrities like George Clooney or Bono do not have to worry about re-election. Nor does society hold celebrities to account. When we become disappointed in their performance we simply look for a fresh face and a more convincing personality. These days authority comes in tiny bite size packages and has a very short shelf life.

Finally, in 2014, the North American Journal of Psychology, published Materialism and the tendency to worship celebrities:

In the last decade there has been a proliferation of research on persons who are enthralled with celebrities–persons who have been termed “celebrity worshippers.” The 23-item Celebrity Attitude Scale (CAS) was developed in an effort to facilitate that line of research. This scale has been shown to have very good reliability (Griffith, Aruguete, Edman, Green, & McCutcheon, 2013) and validity across several studies (see McCutcheon, Maltby, Houran, & Ashe, 2004, for a review). More than two dozen studies using the CAS have appeared in print, and we now know quite a bit about those who admire celebrities. For example, those whose scores indicate that they are absorbed and/or addicted to their favorite celebrity, as reflected in high scores on the Intense-personal and Borderline Pathological subscales, tend to show signs of neuroticism and psychoticism in the context of Eysenck’s personality dimensions (Maltby, Houran, & McCutcheon, 2003). Furthermore, the terms “foolish” and “irresponsible” are commonly attributed to celebrity worshippers (McCutcheon & Maltby, 2002). However, there is still much that we do not know about the values of celebrity-worshipers. For example, we do not know how the strength of attitudes toward celebrities relates to values about materialism or envy.

Materialism is described by Richins and Dawson (1992) as the importance that persons attach to their material possessions and the acquisition thereof. They perceive three dimensions of materialism: centrality, by which they mean the extent to which possessions and their acquisition is a central part of a materialist’s life; pursuit of happiness, meaning that acquiring possessions is vital to the happiness of a materialist; possession-defined success, meaning that materialists judge the success of themselves and others by the quantity and quality of their possessions. Richins and Dawson developed a scale to measure the strength of these three dimensions, scores on which are combined to yield an overall materialism score.

Envy has been defined by Richins and Dawson (1992) as coveting something belonging to another, and, frequently, “a resentment of the person who possesses the desired objects” (p. 313). They found a positive correlation between scores on an envy subscale developed by Belk (1984) and their own materialism scale. However, the resentment component may be an artifact of the way some of the items were worded on the envy subscale. For example, “People who are very wealthy often feel they are too good to talk to average people,” and “When friends have things I cannot afford it bothers me.” It seems to us that it is possible to covet things without necessarily resenting those who have them, and that neutral wording of envy items might still yield a positive correlation with a materialism scale. In fact, one of the major themes in a popular book about celebrities and the motivation to become a celebrity is that envy for what celebrities have is not accompanied by resentment toward celebrities. Rather, envy for what celebrities have is accompanied by admiration or worship (Halpern, 2008).

One might ask, “What evidence links the celebrity worshiper with those who place a high value on materialism?” Pick up a popular magazine or turn on the television and you will find a never-ending parade of famous, beautiful people trying to sell something (Gill, 2003). It is easy to get the impression that the celebrities who endorse expensive products probably use them. Further, the entertainment media sometimes interview celebrities in their million-dollar homes. The underlying message seems to be, “Wouldn’t you like to have the wonderful possessions that this celebrity owns?” If the media have promoted materialism, then we would expect to find a positive correlation between amount of television viewing and the extent to which persons endorse materialistic values. In fact some studies show weak positive correlations between the two (see Shrum, Lee, Burroughs & Rindfleisch, 2011, for a brief review), but one found a correlation of .37 after controlling for demographic variables (Shrum, Burroughs, & Rindfleisch, 2005).

The absorption–addiction theoretical model suggests that an increase in celebrity adoration, especially reflected in elevated scores on the Intense-personal and Borderline Pathological subscales, is accompanied by poor psychological well-being (McCutcheon, Maltby, Houran, & Ashe, 2004). Research using the CAS shows that persons whose scores indicate that they are absorbed in and addicted to their favorite celebrity are prone to depression and anxiety (Maltby, McCutcheon, Ashe, & Houran, 2001; Maltby, McCutcheon, & Lowinger, 2011), as well as self consciousness, hostility, and vulnerability (Maltby, McCutcheon, & Lowinger, 2011). This implies that celebrity worshippers would probably score low on measures of life satisfaction. Research also shows that materialists display lower levels of life satisfaction and well-being (Kashdan & Breen, 2007; Richins & Dawson, 1992).

Both the admiration of celebrities and materialism appear to be deeply embedded in American society. In fact, materialism seems to be closely linked with celebrity status, at least for those celebrities who are known for their expensive clothes, houses, and jewelry. We predict a positive correlation between the tendency to worship celebrities and the tendency to endorse materialistic values. Sheridan, North, Maltby and Gillett (2007) found that political celebrities were worshiped differently, and possibly for different reasons, from music celebrities. We believe that the perception of favorite celebrities from categories such as Author, Politics, Medicine, Art, Religion, and Science differs somewhat from the perception of celebrities in the popular culture categories of Acting, Popular Music, and Sports. Celebrities in the latter categories often appear on television or in movies and have huge incomes which allow them to acquire many material possessions. It seems to us that persons famous for their contributions to literature, medicine, religion, and science are admired primarily for their humanitarian efforts, rather than the amount of money they make or their status-conferring possessions. Consequently, we predict that the correlation between materialism and celebrity worship will be stronger for celebrities chosen from the popular culture categories than for celebrities selected from the humanitarian categories.

The inclusion of five items designed to tap the concept of envy will shed some light on the relationship between envy and attitudes toward celebrities. Will envy be positively related to favorable attitudes toward celebrities, as Halpern suggested (2008), or will it be negatively related to favorable attitudes toward celebrities, as suggested by Belk (1984)?

To summarize, we predict a positive relationship between scores on the CAS and a measure of materialism. We also predict that this relationship will be stronger for a subset of participants whose favorite celebrities are chosen from the popular culture categories, and for those with high scores on the Intense-personal and Borderline Pathological CAS subscales. We also predicted that materialism would be positively correlated with our improved measure of envy. We make no prediction about the relationship between envy and attitudes toward celebrities.

The results:

The means, standard deviations, and alphas for the CAS (Maltby, McCutcheon, & Lowinger, 2011; McCutcheon, Maltby, Houran & Ashe, 2004) and the MVS (Richins, 2004) are consistent with results obtained in previous studies. See Table One for means, standard deviations and ranges of all measures used in the present study.

Table 2 presents the correlation matrix for all measures used in the study. We predicted a positive correlation between scores on the CAS-Total and the MVS-Total. The correlation between these two measures was r (247) = .13, p < .05. We also predicted a stronger positive correlation between CAS-Total scores and scores on MVS-Total for a subset of participants who chose favorite celebrities from the popular culture categories rather than humanitarian categories. The correlation between these two measures for those with favorite celebrities from pop culture was not significant, r (145) = .15, p = .07, as it was also not significant for participants who selected a humanitarian category, r (5) = -.14, p = .80. There were only 6 participants who chose celebrities in the humanitarian categories, which is less than 3% of the entire sample.

We also predicted a strong positive relationship between MVS scores and scores on the CAS Intense-personal and CAS Borderline Pathological subscales. The correlation coefficient for the former was nonsignificant, r (247) = .06, but it was significant for Borderline Pathological, r (247) = .18, p <.01.

Our envy scale, worded to reduce the resentment component, correlated .66 with MVS – Total, and almost as strongly with each of the three MVS subscales. We raised the question “Will envy be positively or negatively related to attitudes toward one’s favorite celebrity? The correlation between scores on our five-item envy scale and CAS-Total scores was not significant, r = .12.


We predicted and found a significant positive correlation between scores on the CAS-Total and the MVS-Total. However, the correlation between these two measures was weak. Consistent with the absorption-addiction model, those with high Borderline Pathological CAS scores (but not high Intense-personal scores) did tend to score higher on MVS-total scores. However, this significant correlation was relatively weak. This is consistent with a recent study that found an r of .36 between MVS and CAS Borderline Pathological, and somewhat smaller correlations for the other two CAS subscales (Reeves, Baker, & Truluck, 2012).

We also predicted a stronger positive correlation between CAS-Total scores and scores on MVS-Total for a subset of participants who chose favorite celebrities from the popular culture categories rather than humanitarian categories. The correlation between these two measures for those with favorite celebrities from pop culture was not significant, nor was it significant for participants who selected a humanitarian category. However, there were only six participants who chose a favorite celebrity from one of the humanitarian categories. The media rarely promote humanitarians as celebrities, opting instead for the more glamorous singers, actors and athletes who can sell products.

Envy was positively related to materialism, even after the resentment component present in previous measures was removed. Materialists apparently envy those who have more material possessions, and envy the happiness they believe comes with fulfilling their materialistic fantasies.

Halpern (2008) argued that many of those who ‘worship’ celebrities do so partly out of envy for the material possessions that celebrities have acquired. They admire celebrities for their success in obtaining the material possessions that they themselves wish to obtain. Belk (1984), on the other hand, believed that materialists dislike famous persons. Our results fall somewhere in between. However, if we look at correlations between our Envy scale scores and scores on all four CAS measures, we see a weak trend favoring Halpern’s contention. All are positive, and the mean of the four correlations is slightly higher than +.12.

Perhaps it is no mere coincidence that the most problematic of the three CAS categories is also the one most strongly related to both envy and materialism. High scorers on the CAS Borderline Pathological subscale have been identified in previous research as prone to depression and anxiety (Maltby, McCutcheon, Ashe, & Houran, 2001), exhibiting Eysenckian psychoticism traits (Maltby, Houran & McCutcheon, 2003), narcissistic tendencies (Ashe, Maltby, & McCutcheon, 2005); and cognitive rigidity (Martin, Cayanus, McCutcheon, & Maltby, 2003). High scorers on the MVS also are prone to depression and anxiety (Kasser & Ahuvia, 2002), low self-esteem and personal insecurity (Christopher, Marek, & Carroll, 2004), impulsive buying (Troisi, Christopher, & Marek, 2006), diminished well-being (Kashdan & Breen, 2007), low levels of life satisfaction (Burroughs & Rindfleisch, 2002; Richins & Dawson, 1992), and unhappy social relationships (Banerjee & Dittmar, 2008). Envy has been found to correlate with materialism, both with a resentment component (Richins & Dawkins, 1992), and without, as in the present study.

Additional research is needed to determine the nature of the link between celebrity worship and materialism, especially the Borderline Pathological type and the Happiness domain of the MVS. Additional research comparing those rare participants who select favorite celebrities from the humanitarian categories versus those who select favorites from the pop culture categories on materialism is likely to yield a significant difference. Our data, which yielded a .29 difference between the pop culture and humanitarian groups, hinted at such a difference, but we could obtain only 6 participants who chose their favorite celebrities from the humanitarian categories, less than 3% of the entire sample. It is likely that such a study would require a much larger sample size in order to obtain a meaningful subsample of humanitarians. A larger sample might additionally improve the diversity (age, ethnic, educational level) of participants. Finally, when measuring envy, further research should consider adding items to the scale. This would likely improve the reliability estimates of this measure.


As more studies are done, I will continue to show attention to them, as they correlate strongly with envy, materialism, narcissism, and poor mental health.


3 thoughts on “Reality TV, Celebrity, and the American Culture

  1. Pingback: Follow-Up to Reality TV, Celebrity, and the American Culture: Part Two | The Progressive Democrat

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