Obsessing over the lives of the rich and famous has been linked to low levels of intelligence.
According to a 2021 study published in BMC Psychology, individuals who are obsessed with famous people tend to perform poorly on cognitive ability tests when compared to those who show less interest in celebrity news and gossip. Researchers tapped 1,763 Hungarian adults to complete multiple online tests to assess each participant’s cognitive skills.
The team tested the individuals’ “crystalized intelligence” through a 30-word vocabulary test, and then measured their “fluid intelligence” with a digit symbol substitution test. Participants were then asked to complete a “Celebrity Attitude Scale” questionnaire to gauge their interest in stars. According to the New York Post, the subjects were presented with a series of statements, such as “I often feel compelled to learn the personal habits of my favorite celebrity” and “I am obsessed by details of my favorite celebrity’s life.” They then used a series of response options ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”
The subjects were then placed in one of three categories: “entertainment-social” fans, who tended to agree with statements like, “My friends and I like to discuss what my favorite celebrity has done”; the “intense-personal” category, which included those who admitted to frequently thinking about celebrities even when they don’t want to; and the most celebrity-obsessed group, “Borderline-Pathological,” which generally agreed with statements like, “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.”
Researchers also collected data and information about the participants’ self-esteem levels, as well as their education, material wealth, and household income.
It remains unclear if lower intelligence is the cause or consequence of celebrity obsession. Do celebrity-obsessed people perform poorly on cognitive tests because they’re preoccupied with celebrities? Or is their obsession due to their inability to grasp or maintain interest in complex subjects?
“Future studies should seek further support for our suggestion that the cognitive effort invested in maintaining the absorption in a favorite celebrity may interfere with the person’s performance in tasks that require attention and other cognitive skills,” the study’s authors told the PsyPost. “Although our research does not prove that developing a powerful obsession with one’s favorite celebrity causes one to score lower on cognitive tests, it suggests that it might be wise to carefully monitor feelings for one’s favorite celebrity, keeping in mind that most celebrities are human beings who have some flaws just like average persons have.”
The study led to some pretty polarizing reactions on social media, some of which you can see below.