Brief Report: Celebrity Worshipers and the Five-Factor Model of Personality

By Maltby, John; McCutcheon, Lynn E. et al. | North American Journal of Psychology, June 2011 | Go to article overview

Brief Report: Celebrity Worshipers and the Five-Factor Model of Personality


Maltby, John, McCutcheon, Lynn E., Lowinger, Robert Jay, North American Journal of Psychology


In the second half of the twentieth century social critics observed that western societies were undergoing a seemingly unhealthy and pervasive trend: Real heroes were being replaced by celebrities--persons whose achievements amounted to little more than being able to sing, dance, and appear more photogenic than most (Boorstin, 1961; Fishwick, 1969). This trend continues, promoted first by radio and moving pictures, then by television and more modern technology. More recently, critics have decried a deliberate attempt on the part of television executives to create an entire society of celebrity worshipers, people who would follow the potentially harmful, uninformed advice sometimes offered by these dubious heroes, especially if it increased the sale of sponsored products (Bogart, 1980; Schickel, 1985).

The development and publication of the Celebrity Worship Scale (CWS) triggered a modest amount of research aimed at determining the attitudes, traits and behaviors of those who "worshiped" at least one celebrity (McCutcheon, Lange, & Houran, 2002). A factor analysis revealed three factors consisting of 23 items. This revision of the CWS became known as the Celebrity Attitude Scale (CAS; Maltby, Houran, Lange, Ashe, & McCutcheon, 2002; Maltby, McCutcheon, Ashe, & Houran, 2001).

The first factor or subscale was labeled "Entertainment-social (ES)," because its ten items implied that some persons are attracted to celebrities because they have entertainment value and they provide opportunities for conversation. Factor or subscale two was named the "Intense-personal (IP)" subscale because its nine items reflect a deeper, more intense involvement with one's favorite celebrity. Factor or subscale three, "Borderline-pathological, (Path)" consists of four items that, if agreed with, imply a problematic, parasocial relationship.

Subsequent research has shown that the first factor, ES, is relatively benign, but those who score high on subscales two and three (IP and Path) are likely to exhibit attitudes and behaviors that are problematic. For example, Maltby, Giles, Barber and McCutcheon (2005) found that female adolescents who scored high on CAS IP (but not ES) tended to have a poor body image. Maltby, Day, McCutcheon, Houran and Ashe (2005) found that celebrity worship for Intense-personal reasons was correlated with fantasy proneness, and celebrity worship for Borderline-pathological reasons was linked to both fantasy proneness and dissociation.

Maltby, Houran and McCutcheon (2003) found positive relationships between celebrity worship for Entertainment-social reasons and extraversion, one of the three dimensions of Eysenck's personality model (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1975). However, IP scores correlated positively with Eysenck's neuroticism traits, and Path scores correlated with Eysenckian psychoticism traits (Maltby, et al.). A study of coping with stress, general health and life satisfaction led to the conclusion that poor mental health was associated with high scores on CAS IP (Maltby, Day, McCutcheon, Gillett, Houran, & Ashe, 2004). In addition to finding that high CAS IP scores and high CAS Path scores predicted both depressive symptoms and higher anxiety, Maltby, McCutcheon, Ashe, and Houran (2001) also found an association between CAS ES and depressive symptoms.

The five-factor trait approach to the study of personality represents a modern synthesis of some of the most important traits commonly used to describe human beings (Costa & McCrae, 1992). The five-factor model and the scales based on it are "well-established and widely used" (Batey, Chamorro-Premuzic, & Furnham, 2009, p. 62).

The Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI-R; Costa & McCrae, 1992) measures the five-factor model of personality through five main domains (italicized), each subdivided into six facets or subscales (in brackets): (1) Neuroticism (Anxiety, Angry Hostility, Depression, Self-Consciousness, Impulsiveness and Vulnerability), (2) Extraversion (Warmth, Gregariousness, Assertiveness, Activity, Excitement Seeking, and Positive Emotions), (3) Openness (Fantasy, Aesthetics, Feelings, Actions, Ideas and Values), (4) Agreeableness (Trust, Straightforwardness, Altruism, Compliance, Modesty and Tender-Mindedness), and (5) Conscientiousness (Competence, Order, Dutifulness, Achievement Striving, Self-discipline and Deliberation). …

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