By Bridget Yu (Bugle Team)

After four Oscar nominations, Leonardo DiCaprio has finally won an Oscar! Congratulations Leo! I’m sure that all of you have come across the posts of different memes, photos or videos on social media, by Leo’s fans after he won the Oscar (believe me this is not another spam post). Undoubtedly, he has lots and lots of fans all over the world. Yet, how important is he in his fan’s eyes? Why do people go crazy about their idols?

What is celebrity worshipping?

I believe that we all have an idol at some point in our life. It’s okay to keep up with celebrities as a hobby. However, some people may take this too seriously and develop celebrity worship syndrome. According to Mark in Psychology Today (2013), celebrity worship syndrome is an obsessive-addictive disorder where an individual becomes obsessed with the details of the personal life of the celebrity. From the Celebrity Attitude Scale (McCutcheon et al., 2002), we can see that there are 3 different dimensions of celebrity worship, including entertainment-social level, intense-personal level and borderline-pathological level. The lowest level is the entertainment-social level, where individuals would keep up with their idols and have a discussion about them in their friend circles. The next is  the intense-personal dimension where an individual has intense and compulsive feelings towards a celebrity. The last and the most severe, is the borderline-pathological dimension where individuals lose control of their behaviours and fantasies in relation to the celebrity.

Unsurprisingly, worshippers are mainly teenagers. Greene and Adams (1990) suggested that this is to do with the identity development of adolescents. During puberty, we experience second individuation (Blos, 1967), where we escape from parental authority and seek our own personal identity. Greene and Adams (1990) also suggested that adolescents can develop secondary attachments including romantic attachments and identificatory attachments towards their idol. In this way, we can see that celebrity worshipping is important for personal development and therefore is more commonly seen in young adults than older adults. As older adults have already established their identies.

Maltby et al. (2003) also found that there is positive correlation between an individual’s personality type and their level of obsession towards celebrities. For instance, people who score high on measures of extraversion are more likely to engage in entertainment-social dimension of celebrity worshipping. Whereas borderline-pathological level of celebrity worshipping is associated with a psychotic personality, which is a type of personality characterised by aggressiveness and interpersonal hostility.

Yet what’s the relationship between personality and level of obsession towards celebrities?

According to the absorption and addiction model proposed by McCutcheon et al. (2002), if an individual’s need for absorption[1] is high, they will be involved in higher levels of celebrity worship.  This is because absorption can be achieved by idolizing celebrities. Worshippers will develop a delusional belief that they have a special relationship with their idol and obtain closeness with their idol through this. Addiction is the next step to maintain and further intensify their ‘closeness’. In other words, addiction helps worshipers maintain their delusional belief to satisfy their need for absorption.

This is an attempt to understand why some people are more prone to high levels of celebrity worshipping than others. It’s totally fine to forget about all the theories mentioned above but the take home message is to remember and recognize when we and others start crossing the line of losing rationality leading to becoming obsessed with celebrities.


‘Celebrity Worship Syndrome’. Psychology Today. Accessed 4 March 2016. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-excess/201307/celebrity-worship-syndrome.

Maltby, J., Houran, J., & Mccutcheon, L. E. (2003). A Clinical Interpretation Of Attitudes And Behaviors Associated With Celebrity Worship. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 191(1), 25-29.

McCutcheon, Lynn E., Rense Lange, and James Houran. ‘Conceptualization and Measurement of Celebrity Worship’. British Journal of Psychology 93, no. 1 (February 2002): 67.

Greene, A. L., & Adams-Price, C. (1990). Adolescents’ secondary attachments to celebrity figures. Sex Roles, 23(7-8), 335-347.

Tellegen, A., & Atkinson, G. (1974). Openness to absorbing and self-altering experiences (“absorption”), a trait related to hypnotic susceptibility. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 83(3), 268-277.

[1] ‘A total attention, involving a full commitment of available perceptual, motoric, imaginative and ideational resources to a unified representation of the attentional object’ (Tellegen & Atkinson, 1974)

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