Why is celebrity gossip so prevalent? Parasocial relationships as a driver of gossip

06 Dicembre 2022 - 12:00 / 13:30

Research Seminars Virtual Room, Luiss

Speaker: Gaia Giambastiani , Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam


A widely held belief among consumers is celebrity gossip attracts too much attention. This research offers an explanation for the pervasiveness of celebrity gossip (i.e., gossip with a favorite celebrity as the target) by taking a novel relational approach to specifying how the nature of the sender-target relationship influences an individual’s propensity to gossip. Individuals and celebrities often constitute a one-sided imbalanced “parasocial” relationship, with the former extending emotional energy, interest and time, while the latter is unaware of the former’s existence. In contrast, social relationships with friends and acquaintances are more balanced in terms of reciprocal influence. Taking a relational approach, we first document how, in general, the likelihood of spreading gossip depends on the opposing forces of: (1) how guilty one anticipates feeling about gossiping, and (2) how exciting sharing the gossip is perceived to be. Next, we find that gossiping about favorite celebrities, who exert substantial influence, but are not themselves influenced by the person gossiping, results in less anticipated guilt and more excitement than gossiping about alternative targets. Alternative targets generate a lower tendency to gossip because of higher guilt (friends) or less excitement (acquaintances). Consequently, we find gossiping about favorite celebrities is seen as: (1) less of a betrayal, and (2) less likely to damage the relationship as compared to gossiping about friends, while also (3) considered a stronger signal of liking for favorite celebrities than other targets. Taken together, this research helps explain why people are so prone to gossip about their favorite celebrities.