COHFA | Psychology: Projects in Progress

Title

Friends Close, Fandom Closer: Terror Management and Parasocial Support

Academic Level at Time of Presentation

Graduate

Major

Experimental Psychology

Minor

N/A

List all Project Mentors & Advisor(s)

Jana Hackathorn, Ph.D.

Presentation Format

Poster Presentation

Abstract/Description

Previous terror management theory (TMT) research has successfully examined participants’ reactions to the idea of death (Pyszczynski, Greenberg, & Solomon, 1999). This theory has not been applied to parasocial psychology, which focuses on relationships between fans of media and particular media sources rather than human relationships (Giles, 2002). No known research has examined whether fans use online platforms to cope with character loss. Ballantine and Martin posited that dependency may cause the formation of online parasocial relationships (2005). The current study measured participants’ parasocial engagement (including parasocial guidance, intimacy, familiarity, and face to face engagement), fandom involvement, level of fan identity, and tendencies to seek support from fellow fans when faced with character death. Researchers hypothesized that scores on all fan scales would be positively correlated with tendencies to seek support from fellow fans. Using data from existing participants, bivariate correlations were found between fandom specific support seeking behaviors and parasocial engagement: parasocial guidance (r = .58, p < .001) intimacy (r =.57, p < .001) familiarity (r =. 36, p < .051) face to face (r = .25, p = .175), fandom engagement (r = .47, p = .009), and fandom identification (r = .35, p = .059). This pattern was trending in the predicted direction for individuals who wrote about their favorite character’s death (p = .255), supporting past TMT research. It follows that high-level media fans seek support from others who share their devotion. Although data is still being collected, patterns are promising and will likely continue.

Location

Classroom 210, Waterfield Library

Start Date

November 2016

End Date

November 2016

Affiliations

Psychology: Projects in Progress

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Nov 18th, 8:00 AM Nov 18th, 10:00 AM

Friends Close, Fandom Closer: Terror Management and Parasocial Support

Classroom 210, Waterfield Library

Previous terror management theory (TMT) research has successfully examined participants’ reactions to the idea of death (Pyszczynski, Greenberg, & Solomon, 1999). This theory has not been applied to parasocial psychology, which focuses on relationships between fans of media and particular media sources rather than human relationships (Giles, 2002). No known research has examined whether fans use online platforms to cope with character loss. Ballantine and Martin posited that dependency may cause the formation of online parasocial relationships (2005). The current study measured participants’ parasocial engagement (including parasocial guidance, intimacy, familiarity, and face to face engagement), fandom involvement, level of fan identity, and tendencies to seek support from fellow fans when faced with character death. Researchers hypothesized that scores on all fan scales would be positively correlated with tendencies to seek support from fellow fans. Using data from existing participants, bivariate correlations were found between fandom specific support seeking behaviors and parasocial engagement: parasocial guidance (r = .58, p < .001) intimacy (r =.57, p < .001) familiarity (r =. 36, p < .051) face to face (r = .25, p = .175), fandom engagement (r = .47, p = .009), and fandom identification (r = .35, p = .059). This pattern was trending in the predicted direction for individuals who wrote about their favorite character’s death (p = .255), supporting past TMT research. It follows that high-level media fans seek support from others who share their devotion. Although data is still being collected, patterns are promising and will likely continue.