Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Are Celebrity-Worshippers More Prone to Narcissism? A Brief Report

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Are Celebrity-Worshippers More Prone to Narcissism? A Brief Report

Article excerpt

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). …

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