University of Leicester eBulletin

Hero Worship - Good or Bad?

May 2003
No 120

Celebrity worship syndrome suggests that, although following a celebrity can be a positive influence on people’s lives, in some extreme cases people admit they would lie, steal or worse if the object of their admiration asked them.

These are some of the findings of a new research programme conducted by psychologists at the University of Leicester in conjunction with psychologists in the USA.

Their findings also indicate that celebrity worship is not just the remit of teenage girls prone to idolisation or science fiction fans, but affected up to nearly 30% of the people sampled.

Recent studies carried out by the team suggest that there seem to be three main dimensions to celebrity worship. Low levels involve following a celebrity for entertainment and social reasons, chatting with friends and talking about the object of your admiration.

Intermediate levels of celebrity worship, by contrast, are characterised by more intense and personal feelings, reflecting an individual’s belief that he or she may have a special bond with the celebrity.

High levels of are thought to resemble more social-pathological attitudes and behaviours that are held as a result of worshipping a celebrity. 

In a recent paper by the team in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, the authors reported findings that suggested that there might be both positive and negative consequences of following a celebrity. 

People who do so for entertainment and social reasons are also found to be more outgoing, happy and optimistic. However those who follow celebrities for intense-personal reasons are likely to be more depressed and anxious, whilst those who demonstrate high levels of celebrity worship may well be solitary, impulsive, anti-social and troublesome.

Dr John Maltby, University of Leicester Lecturer in Psychology, commented: “It has to be remembered that celebrity worship is not necessarily a bad thing. However, our findings suggest that, like many other behaviours, over-indulgence in one thing may not always be good for you” .

NOTE TO EDITORS: Further information is available from Dr John Maltby, University of Leicester Department of Psychology, tel 0116 252 2165, fax 0116 252 2705, mobile 07968 586441, email

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