Wednesday, 24 Jun, 2009 Science
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Why Celebrities Stay Popular Long After Their Talent Had Faded

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Latest psychology research, carried out by Nathanael Fast from Stanford University in California and his team, attempted to explain why some celebrities maintain their fame for a long time. According to the lead scientist, people simply need a topic to talk on. Because people tend to find common ground, they are more likely to talk about celebrities. In their study, researchers focused on professional baseball players in the United States.

In order to discover whether conversation could increase the fame of a baseball player, researchers gave 33 male and 56 female participants a list of 8 baseball players with information on their performance. Participants selected a name of one of the baseball players from the list and drafted an email about the player to another volunteer. There were some cases when the study participant was told that the person receiving the mail is a huge fan of baseball.

The study found that in most cases people talked about players that were not really famous for their talent in sport. Participants, who were told that the person receiving their email is a baseball expert, tended to select an obscure player. Those who did not know anything about their correspondent were more likely to talk about famous players, reports New Scientist.

Testing on a Larger Scale

In order to test their theory on a larger scale, the team of scientists analyzed the relationships between fan talks over the Internet, media coverage, and the fan voting for the annual "All-Star" game. It was discovered that the majority of All-Star votes were received by the players that appeared more often in the media and who received the most attention on message boards.

The results of a statistical analysis showed, however, that talks over the Internet, and mainly on message boards that were not dedicated to baseball, drove both All-Star game votes and media coverage. At the same time Fast and colleagues discovered that the Internet talks among non-experts had the same effect on voting as performance.

The point is that famous people remain famous for a longer period of time than they ought to be due to the fact that they serve as conversational fodder, thus driving more media coverage.

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