New study reveals psychological factors linked to hatred of celebrity class and lifestyle

Newly published research provides insight into the psychological factors underlying hatred of celebrity culture and its consequences. The results were published in the journal Psychology of popular media.

“Interactions between fans and celebrities, like any other relationship, can involve both love and hate,” said study author Ho Phi Huynh, associate professor of psychology at Texas A&M University – San Antonio.

“Recently there has been a shift from celebrity admiration to celebrity hatred. There are celebrity hate websites that focus on negative information about celebrities, and negative and scandal-fueled criticism of celebrities is on the rise.”

“People seem to enjoy discussing and reading hateful celebrity gossip,” Huynh said. “This study was conducted to answer the question of why intergroup conflict forms between celebrity class and community by examining the potential psychological factors that lead individuals to hate celebrity culture, as well as the possible consequences of such a perspective have been examined.”

For their study, the researchers recruited 754 participants from Iran and the United States, with the US sample (n=248) recruited via Amazon Mechanical Turk and the Iranian sample (n=506) via an ad on an online shopping site. Site in Iran was recruited.

A 26-item Celebrity Culture Triangular Hate Scale was used to measure celebrity culture hatred, with a 9-item response scale ranging from “not at all” to “extremely”. Items included statements such as “I find celebrity culture really disgusting,” “I would join a movement against celebrity culture,” and “Personally, I feel threatened by celebrity culture.”

Psychometric properties were measured using different techniques. Nine items were dropped due to redundancy or irrelevance, but the scale showed good reliability and validity in both Farsi and English-speaking samples.

Researchers also used different scales to measure different psychological characteristics. Materialism was measured using a 5-point scale that asked respondents to rate their agreement with statements about admiring people who own expensive things. Humility was measured using a 5-point scale that asked respondents to rate their agreement with statements about the importance of having lots of money.

Perceived deprivation was measured using two scales: one that asked respondents to rate their feelings of deprivation compared to celebrities, and another that asked respondents to rate their subjective social status. Social dominance orientation was measured using an 8-point scale that asked respondents about their comfort level with group-based hierarchy.

Perceived threats from celebrity culture were measured using two items that asked respondents to rate their agreement with statements about the impact of celebrity culture on society. Self-perceived feelings of victimization were measured using a single item that asked respondents to rate their level of agreement with a statement that they consider themselves a victim of celebrity culture.

Researchers found that these factors were significant predictors of hatred of celebrity culture in both the United States and Iran. “It appears that hatred in celebrity culture is not a culture-specific phenomenon, and such hatred is increasing in both Western and Eastern cultures. The results suggest that society’s sense of vulnerability to celebrities (the sense of being a victim of celebrity existence and celebrity culture) fuels the community’s hatred of the celebrity class and their lifestyle,” he said Huynh to PsyPost.

But there were some differences between the two countries. In the United States, compared to Iran, these characteristics accounted for a higher percentage of the variance. Traits such as humility, perceived deprivation, threat, and victimhood were significant predictors in both countries, but materialism and social dominance orientation were significant predictors only in Iran, not in the United States. The difference might be that Americans themselves tend to be more materialistic and therefore less likely to turn down celebrities for their materialistic excess.

But what about the consequences of hate in celebrity culture? Not surprisingly, those with more hatred of celebrity culture were more in favor of fighting it in the real world and posting negative information about it online.

“There is a fundamental divide forming between people and celebrities that can significantly hamper the productivity and efficiency of society,” Huynh said. “As the community reports hatred towards celebrities, the question of whether celebrities also express hatred towards society is still an unanswered question. Examining celebrity attitudes towards the community can be very helpful in better understanding the nature of the 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.

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