Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Using Research on Celebrity Admiration to Enhance Your Statistics Class

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Using Research on Celebrity Admiration to Enhance Your Statistics Class

Article excerpt

Many psychology students approach statistics classes with little enthusiasm and considerable dread (Cherry, 2016). For students who envision themselves as counselors or psychotherapists, statistics might even be perceived as irrelevant to their career goals (Miles, 2006). Indeed, Earley (2014) found that students of psychology tend to enter statistical methodology courses with low interest due to a lack in understanding of the utility of the course content to the discipline. In fact, these students may even have a-priori distaste for the subject matter altogether (e.g., calling it "sadistics" rather than "statistics"; Lalonde & Gardner, 1993).

One way to make the statistics class more relevant is to show how inferential statistics can be used to answer questions stemming from real research in psychology (Cherry, 2016). It might also be possible to raise the interest level of students by using research questions that are novel and address areas that many students are likely to find fascinating. One such area is celebrity admiration. Seemingly everywhere, television and social media provide a non-stop promotion of celebrities through sports, movies, weekly dramas, and commercials. There are even shows about the celebrities themselves, as well as so-called reality shows that create celebrities out of ordinary people. Many celebrities are physically attractive, socially skilled, and talented as singers, actors, or athletes. It is little wonder that students often feel a strong bond with their favorite celebrities in both the United States (Griffith, Aruguete, Edman, Green, & McCutcheon, 2013; McCutcheon & Richman, 2016), and in the Philippines (Vega et al., 2013). A large sample of British adults, when asked "How many celebrities do you strongly like or admire?" gave a mean answer of almost nine (Maltby, Houran, Lange, Ashe, & McCutcheon, 2002). Another study found that about one out of every three adults could be classified as a celebrity worshiper (Maltby, Houran, & McCutcheon, 2003).

Another reason for choosing celebrity admiration as a "beauty" for the statistics "beast" is to acquaint students with the body of literature which suggests that there is a price to be paid for becoming addicted to celebrities. Sixteen years ago this assertion could not be made because there was a dearth of relevant evidence. That was before the development and validation of the Celebrity Attitude Scale (CAS), a scale designed to measure the intensity of attitudes toward one's favorite celebrity (McCutcheon, Lange, & Houran, 2002). As of 2017, more than 50 studies used the CAS. (1) However, to date, there is no definitive study which causally links celebrity worship with undesirable attitudes and behaviors, but there is an accumulation of findings that suggest that investing a great deal of time, energy, and devotion to celebrities is associated with a variety of indices of poorer psychological well-being. For example, McCutcheon, Gillen, Browne, Murtagh, and Collisson (2016) found a relationship between scores on CAS BP (a subscale on which high scores suggest borderline pathology) and scores on the Dependent subscale of the Love Attitude Scale (LAS) correlated about .40. High scores on LAS Dependent suggest a needy, insecure person who leans on a lover for support. McCutcheon et al. (2014) found that CAS BP correlated with some "irresponsible" attitudes and behaviors; Aruguete, Griffith, Edman, Green, and McCutcheon (2014) discovered that males with high CAS scores were prone to eating disorders; Maltby, Giles, Barber, and McCutcheon (2005) found that adolescent females with high CAS scores had a negative body image that might lead to eating disorders. Maltby et al. (2003) also found a link between CAS BP and the Eysenckian conception of psychoticism; Maltby, Day, McCutcheon, Gillett, Houran, and Ashe (2004) found that poor mental health and an inadequate coping style described those who scored high on Intense Personal (IP), another CAS subscale characterized by an obsessive attachment to one's favorite celebrity. …

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