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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 August, 2003, 23:32 GMT 00:32 UK
Worshipping celebrities 'brings success'
Victoria and David Beckham
Following David and Victoria's every move could be good for you
Those hours spent poring over the exploits of J-Lo and Ben, Posh and Becks or Robbie Williams could be time well spent - scientists say celebrity worship could help us live our lives more successfully.

Evolutionary biologists say it is natural for humans to look up to individuals who receive attention because they have succeeded in a society.

In prehistoric times, this would have meant respecting good hunters and elders.

But as hunting is not now an essential skill and longevity is more widely achievable, these qualities are no longer revered.

The vast majority of people will identify a favourite celebrity, but don't say they read about them or think about them all the time
Dr John Maltby, University of Leicester
Instead, we look to celebrities, whose fame and fortune we want to emulate.

Evolutionary anthropologist Francesco Gill-White from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia told New Scientist; "It makes sense for you to rank individuals according to how successful they are at the behaviours you are trying to copy, because whoever is getting more of what everybody wants is probably using above-average methods."

But Dr Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Liverpool, said following celebrities did not necessarily mean they were seen as role models.

"We're fascinated even when we don't go out of our way to copy them."

He said people watched how celebrities behaved because they received a great deal of wealth from society and people wanted to ensure it was invested properly.


And some psychologists question whether what has been dubbed celebrity worship syndrome is such a good thing.

They suggest it could be an indication that individuals find it easier to form imaginary relationships with the famous than with normal people - or that such behaviours are a sign of depression or anxiety.

The extreme end of celebrity worship involves obsessional and potentially dangerous stalking where people believe they have to be close to their idols.

But experts say these people make up just a small proportion of celebrity worshippers.

James Houran, a psychologist from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, has helped devise the Celebrity Attitude Scale, which measures people's interest in celebrities.

He said: "Just worshipping a celebrity does not make you dysfunctional.

"But it does put you at risk of being so.

"There is this progression of behaviours, and if you start, we don't know what's going to stop you."

Shared interest

Dr John Maltby, lecturer in psychology at the University of Leicester, has studied links between attitudes to celebrities and personality types.

He told BBC News Online that data from 3,000 people showed only around 1% demonstrated obsessional tendencies.

Ten per cent, who tended to be neurotic, tense, emotional and moody, displayed intense interest in celebrities.

Around 14% said they would make a special effort to read about their favourite celebrity and to socialise with people who shared their interest.

But he said the other 75% of the population do not take any interest in celebrities' lives.

"Generally, the vast majority of people will identify a favourite celebrity, but don't say they read about them or think about them all the time."

He added: "Like most things, its fine as long as it doesn't take over your life."

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