Blinded by the starlight : an evolutionary framework for studying celebrity culture and fandom
De Backer, Charlotte J.S.
Faculty of Social Sciences. Communication Sciences
Review of General Psychology
, p. 144-151
University of Antwerp
Seeing is believing. Historically, print media has used visual illustrations to add credibility to their texts. The power of visuals is indeed stronger than the power of words. Even though pictures can be manipulated to not portraying any truth, we more easily believe what we see, compared with what we hear or what we read. Visual representations of reality create the false belief as if we witness the situation; an eye-witness perception translates into an I-witness emotional response. From an evolutionarily point of view, this can be labeled as a mismatch outcome of evolved psychological mechanisms. Adaptations to deal with situations that existed in our evolutionary past are being triggered by modern artifacts that might not be fitness-relevant themselves, but look a lot like fitness-relevant cues from the past. A classic example is, for instance, a fear reaction upon encountering a water hose that looks a lot like a snake. In a similar fashion, pictures, being visual representations of the world, look a lot like personal perceptions of the real world and might trigger mental mechanisms to deal with problems associated with this world. Applying this to understand the worship of stars, the author explains how mainly visual stimuli contribute to the formation of parasocial (one way) bonds between stars and their audience. The author draws on theories from the social sciences (communication studies, politics, and sociology), psychology, economics, and evolutionary biology, first to explain the field of celebrity or star studies, second to address the importance of visuals in the production of stars, and finally to explore why audiences worldwide tend to become emotionally involved with individuals they encounter on screens, with whom any form (or possibility of) physical interaction is highly unlikely.