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August 23, 2003

The evolutionary benefits of celebrity

Daniel Radosh

The evolutionary benefits of celebrity worship. A slightly more interesting take on this subject is in the print-only 8/16 New Scientist. Yes, goes this theory, we evolved to pay extra attention the lives of celebrities, but not because they are good role models or want to copy them. According to Robert Dunbar of the Univ. of Liverpool, "It is to do with monitoring freeloaders -- ensuring that people don't enjoy the benefits of society without paying their dues. Society invests a lot in celebrities, so we should constantly monitor them to make sure they are not exploiting us. 'Gossip is a reputation management thing.'"

Of course, you can take celebrity worship too far, and I for one, would like to know where I fall on the recently devised Celebrity Attitude Scale. I'm a plenty busy guy, though, so I hope someone will take the questions at the appendix of this journal article ("If I were lucky enough to meet my favorite celebrity, and he/she asked me to do something illegal as a favor, I would probably do it.") and code it into a nice and easy interactive test. Let me know when that's up and running, will ya?

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