Impetus for Worship: An Exploratory Study of Adolescents' Idol Adoration Behaviors

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The phenomenon of idolization is a characteristic of adolescence. An idol is someone whose talents, achievements, status, or physical appearance are especially recognized and appreciated by his or her fans. Since objects of idolization come from various domains of life, sport champions, movie actors/actresses, television personalities, pop stars, and political or religious leaders can all be idolized figures (Raviv, Bar-tal, Raviv, & Ben-Horn, 1996). Idolization can take many different forms. From extreme cases of suicides and skipping lessons to catch a glimpse of their idols to listening to CDs casually every now and then, adolescents show their devotion and admiration of their idols in various different ways (McCutcheon, Lange, & Houran, 2002).

Psychologists believe that during adolescents' transition to adulthood they form strong attachments to figures around them as they search for their own identity (Greene & Adams-Price, 1990; Raviv et al., 1996; Yue & Cheung, 2000). Under such circumstances, identification with some adults or peer idols enables adolescents to seek information or values and to prepare themselves for an adult role (Erikson, 1964; 1968). Despite this important phenomenon, research on idolization behavior is lacking (Cheng, 1997; Yue & Cheung, 2000).

There are several reasons why it may be important to study celebrity idolization (Engle & Kasser, 2005). First, the identity of adolescents is partially constructed by interacting with popular media and celebrities. As per Steele and Brown's (1995) conclusion that media activities are important determinants of adolescents' cognitions and behaviors and that media are sometimes even used to regulate mood, it is necessary to understand why and how idolization forms in adolescents. Second, idolization is an avenue by which they explore romantic views and attitudes toward interpersonal relationships, especially for girls. Karniol (2001) suggested that idolization may affect the types of relationships they form. Third, idolization may be involved in a subject's well-being. For instance, Cheng (1997) found that celebrity fan club members in Hong Kong reported lower self-esteem than did non-fan club members. Finally, idolization is clearly relevant to the economic behavior of adolescents.

Studies on idolization in Chinese societies are equally rare and have been mostly conducted in Hong Kong (So & Chan, 1992; Wong & Ma, 1997; Chan, Cheung, Lee, Leung, & Liu, 1998; Cheung & Yue, 1999; Yue & Cheung, 2000; see also Yue & Cheung, 2000 for a review). The purpose of this study is to clarify the social or personality attributes of an idol and a model as perceived by adolescents in a Chinese society--Taiwan. This exploratory study attempts to describe in depth the patterns of Taiwanese adolescents' idol worship behaviors. Specifically, we delineate the idol traits which attract adolescents, examine how adolescents rate their favorite idols based on underlying idol traits, and finally explore the relationship between idol traits and adolescents' worship levels.

METHOD

Participants

A mail survey was conducted of students from 13 senior high schools across Taiwan; 2,100 questionnaires were mailed and 1,958 were returned. After deleting questionnaires with incomplete data, 1,636 were used for analysis. The response rate was 77.9%.

Measures

The questionnaire was designed to measure respondents' criteria for choosing favorite idols and models. It is composed of idol characteristics, reasons for worship, intensity of respondents' worship levels, and respondents' characteristics. Eight dichotomous items regarding reasons for worship were augmented from Chiang (2003). The worship levels were measured using the 17-item, 5-point Likert type celebrity worship scale (McCutcheon et al., 2002). The reliability of the celebrity worship scale estimated with Cronbach's alpha was 0. …