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What Distinguishes Fans From Celebrity Stalkers?

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A survey of American university students provides new insights into factors associated with the tendency to engage in celebrity stalking behaviours. Maria Wong (Idaho State University), Lynn McCutcheon (North American Journal of Psychology), Joshua Rodefer (Mercer University) and Kenneth Carter (Emory University) present these findings in the journal PLOS One

Celebrities around the world deal with the threat of unwanted and threatening or intimidating attention or harassment; commonly known as stalking. A growing body of research is exploring and identifying factors that are associated with the tendency to engage in stalking or to condone celebrity stalking behaviours by others.

To help improve understanding of celebrity stalking, Wong, McCutcheon, Rodefer and Carter presented a series of questionnaires to 596 American university students. A few of the questionnaires had been developed in prior studies to measure people’s attitudes and behaviours, including stalking behaviours, towards celebrities. Other questionnaires measured factors hypothesized to be associated with celebrity stalkings, such as anger, thrill-seeking, and relationship attachment styles.

Statistical analysis of the students’ answers revealed certain factors that were associated with a greater likelihood of an individual engaging in celebrity stalking. These included having frequent personal thoughts about a favourite celebrity, feeling driven to learn more about them, persistently pursuing them, threatening to harm them and being prone to boredom. Anger, thrill-seeking, and relationship attachment styles were not associated with a greater likelihood to engage in celebrity stalking.

The analysis also showed that people were less likely to engage in celebrity stalking if their admiration for a favourite celebrity was almost entirely based on the celebrity’s ability to entertain.

These findings are in line with results from earlier studies on celebrity stalking and provide new insights into what might distinguish a fan from a celebrity stalker.

The authors add: “Individuals who think about their favourite celebrity frequently, feel compelled to learn more about them, pursue them consistently,  threaten to harm them and are prone to boredom are more likely to stalk their celebrity.”

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