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Newly published research provides insight into the psychological factors underlying the hatred of celebrity culture and its consequences. The findings have been published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media.
“Interactions between fans and celebrities, like other relationships, can involve both love and hatred,” explained study author Ho Phi Huynh, an associate professor of psychology at Texas A&M University – San Antonio.
“There has been a recent shift from admiration of celebrities to hatred of celebrities. There are celebrity hate websites that focus on negative information about celebrities, and negative and scandal-driven criticisms of celebrities are increasing.”
“People seem to enjoy discussing and reading hateful celebrity gossip,” Huynh said. “This study was conducted to answer the question of why an inter-group conflict is forming between celebrity class and community by investigating the potential psychological factors that predispose individuals to hate celebrity culture as well as exploring the potential consequence of such a perspective.”
For their study, the researchers recruited 754 participants from Iran and the United States, with the U.S. sample (n=248) recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk and the Iranian sample (n=506) recruited through an advertisement on an online shopping site in Iran.
A 26-item “Celebrity Culture Triangular Hate Scale” was used to measure celebrity culture hate, with a 9-point response scale that ranged from “not at all” to “extremely.” Items included statements such as “I think that celebrity culture is truly disgusting,” “I would join a movement that is aimed at fighting against celebrity culture,” and “I personally feel threatened by celebrity culture.”
Psychometric properties were measured using various techniques. Nine items were dropped for redundancy or irrelevancy, but the scale showed good reliability and validity in both Farsi- and English-speaking samples.
The researchers also used various scales to measure different psychological traits. Materialism was measured using a 5-point scale that asked respondents to rate their level of agreement with statements about admiring people who own expensive things. Humility was measured using a 5-point scale that asked respondents to rate their level of agreement with statements about the importance of having a lot of money.
Perceived deprivation was measured using two scales: one that asked respondents to rate their sense of deprivation compared to celebrities, and another that asked respondents to rate their subjective social status. Social dominance orientation was measured using an 8-item scale that asked respondents about their comfort with group-based hierarchy.
Perceived threat of celebrity culture was measured using two items that asked respondents to rate their agreement with statements about the impact of celebrity culture on society. Self-perceived sense of victimhood was measured using a single item that asked respondents to rate their level of agreement with a statement about considering themselves a victim of celebrity culture.
The researchers found that these factors were significant predictors of celebrity culture hate in both the United States and Iran. “It seems that celebrity culture hate is not a culture-specific phenomenon, and such hatred is growing in both western and eastern cultures. Findings suggest that the feelings of the vulnerability of the members of society from celebrities (feeling victimized by the existence of celebrities and celebrity culture) are fueling the community’s hatred toward the celebrity class and their lifestyle,” Huynh told PsyPost.
But there were some differences between the two countries. In the United States, these traits accounted for a higher percentage of the variance compared to Iran. Traits like humility, perceived deprivation, threat, and victimhood were significant predictors in both countries, but materialism and social dominance orientation were only significant predictors in Iran, not the United States. The difference could be because Americans tend to be more materialistic themselves, and therefore less likely to dislike celebrities because of their materialistic excess.
But what about the consequences of celebrity culture hate? Unsurprisingly, those with more celebrity culture hate were more likely to support fighting against it in the real world and posting negative information about it online.
“A fundamental chasm between people and celebrities is forming, which can significantly reduce the productivity and efficiency of society,” Huynh said. “As the community reports hatred towards celebrities, the question of whether celebrities also show hatred towards society is still an unanswered question. Examining the attitude of celebrities towards the community can be very conducive to better understanding the nature of hatred between these two groups.”
The study, “Measurement and Correlates of Celebrity Culture Hate“, was authored by Reza Shabahang, Mara S. Aruguete, Ho Phi Huynh, and Hyejin Shim.