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Fame and the social self: The need to belong, narcissism, and relatedness predict the appeal of fame

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a b s t r a c t The present online survey study (Amazon's MTurk; n = 371) investigated links between three different social self-concepts (the need to belong, narcissism, and relatedness) and the appeal of fame. We exam-ined fame attitudes using a newly-devised fame appeal scale (yielding three factors: Visibility, Status and Prosocial), as well as with two items probing frequency of fame fantasizing and perceived realism of becoming famous. Results show that higher belongingness needs were associated with increased appeal of all three fame factors, as well as increased frequency of fantasizing about fame (accounting for age and gender). Narcissism was associated with increased appeal of Visibility and Status, more time spent engaged in fame fantasy, and greater perceived realism of future fame. Finally, Relatedness predicted increased appeal of the Prosocial fame factor only. Findings illuminate the socioemotional underpinnings of fame appeal and the individual differences that may render certain aspects of fame particularly alluring.
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Fame and the social self: The need to belong, narcissism,
and relatedness predict the appeal of fame
Dara Greenwood
a,
, Christopher R. Long
b
, Sonya Dal Cin
c
a
Vassar College, Department of Psychology, 124 Raymond Ave. Box 49, Poughkeepsie, NY 12604, United States
b
Ouachita Baptist University, Department of Psychology, 410 Ouachita Street, Box 3734, Arkadelphia, AR 71998, United States
c
University of Michigan, Department of Communication Studies, Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research,
5370 North Quad, 105 South State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1285, United States
article info
Article history:
Received 18 January 2013
Received in revised form 10 April 2013
Accepted 17 April 2013
Available online 6 June 2013
Keywords:
Belonging
Narcissism
Relatedness
Fame
Self-concept
abstract
The present online survey study (Amazon’s MTurk; n= 371) investigated links between three different
social self-concepts (the need to belong, narcissism, and relatedness) and the appeal of fame. We exam-
ined fame attitudes using a newly-devised fame appeal scale (yielding three factors: Visibility, Status and
Prosocial), as well as with two items probing frequency of fame fantasizing and perceived realism of
becoming famous. Results show that higher belongingness needs were associated with increased appeal
of all three fame factors, as well as increased frequency of fantasizing about fame (accounting for age and
gender). Narcissism was associated with increased appeal of Visibility and Status, more time spent
engaged in fame fantasy, and greater perceived realism of future fame. Finally, Relatedness predicted
increased appeal of the Prosocial fame factor only. Findings illuminate the socioemotional underpinnings
of fame appeal and the individual differences that may render certain aspects of fame particularly
alluring.
Ó2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
We are not only gregarious animals, liking to be in sight of our
fellows, but we have an innate propensity to get ourselves
noticed, and noticed favorably, by our kind (James, 1893, p. 179).
The present media landscape is increasingly saturated with
images of fame and celebrity. From television to magazines to
websites and blogs, we are chronically confronted with other peo-
ple’s glamorous lifestyles, wardrobes, romantic partners and suc-
cess stories. Further, we are living in a cultural moment in which
ostensibly anyone can achieve sudden fame via the latest reality
television show or YouTube.com video (or via celebrity scent
osmosis with Lady Gaga’s perfume: Fame). While the allure of fame
is certainly not a new phenomenon, the ubiquity and perceived
accessibility of fame seems to be at an all time high. Thus, it seems
prudent to empirically interrogate why fame may be appealing and
for whom. The present study investigates trends in views of self in
concert with views of fame in an adult sample.
Specifically, we explore three constructs that tap individuals’
sense of self in relation to others: the extent to which individuals
are preoccupied with inclusion (i.e., the Need to Belong, Leary,
Kelly, Cottrell, & Schreindorfer, 2005); the extent to which individ-
uals feel superior to others (Narcissism, Konrath, Meier, & Bushman,
2013); and, the extent to which individuals feel securely connected
to others (i.e., the Relatedness subscale of Deci & Ryan’s, 2000, Basic
Psychological Needs scale). We reasoned that these constructs cap-
tured three distinct if related views of self in a social context, which
would help clarify social psychological motivations for fame. A
desire to fit in, a belief in self-importance, and a sense of positive
social connection might each be linked to a greater or less extent
with particular appeals of fame. We examine the latter via a newly-
devised scale that incorporates various motives–from being
recognized, to being wealthy, to having the ability to help others.
1.1. Need to belong
The need to belong, or to feel positively and consistently con-
nected to others, has been conceptualized as a fundamental human
need that underlies various cultural institutions, from religion to
marriage, and is associated with emotional well-being (Baumeister
& Leary, 1995). This affiliative motivation may have primitive,
powerful roots. Many scholars agree that throughout human his-
tory, being a member of a cohesive social group could mean the
difference between life and death from any number of outside
threats. The extent to which physical survival hinged on successful
social bonds is also supported by recent research in social
neuroscience. For example, reminding people of recent rejection
0191-8869/$ - see front matter Ó2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2013.04.020
Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 845 437 7377.
E-mail address: dagreenwood@vassar.edu (D. Greenwood).
Personality and Individual Differences 55 (2013) 490–495
Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect
Personality and Individual Differences
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/paid
experiences activates areas of the brain associated not only with
emotional pain, but with physical pain (Kross, Berman, Mischel,
Smith, & Wager, 2011). We are apparently biologically prepared
to attend to and avoid social rejection much in the same way that
we are motivated to attend to and avoid physical pain.
If being seen and valued are of paramount importance to hu-
man survival-physical and emotional-it is intuitive to imagine that
fame, and the visibility and value it confers, may be considered the
ultimate vehicle by which to accomplish these goals. Indeed, Bau-
meister and Leary (1995) point out that in modern society, the fun-
damental need to belong may manifest in a ‘‘fundamental quest for
fame’’ (p. 521)-motivated by the fantasy that fame may come with
the promise of lifelong social inclusion. In a related vein, recent
scholarship has shown that fame may be particularly appealing
to those whose primitive anxieties about death have been aroused.
In three different studies, Greenberg, Kosloff, Solomon, Cohen, and
Landau (2010) found that priming people with death anxiety in-
creased interest in becoming famous, having a star named after
them, and increased liking for a painting that was attributed to
Johnny Depp (vs. a lesser known artist). The explanation for these
findings, according to the authors, is that being famous provides a
form of symbolic immortality.
The need to belong can be conceptualized as both a fundamen-
tal human need and as an individual difference that captures the
extent to which individuals are preoccupied with social inclusion
(e.g., ‘‘I want other people to accept me’’; Leary et al., 2005). Indi-
viduals with heightened inclusion needs may find fame and celeb-
rity particularly appealing because of the social value fame confers.
Indeed, related research shows that increased belongingness needs
predicted increased imagined intimacy with media figures (Green-
wood & Long, 2011). Famous others may function as idealized
‘‘friends’’ with whom to affiliate; such affiliations may also tempo-
rarily soothe inclusion needs (Derrick, Gabriel, & Hugenberg,
2009). To our knowledge, however, no one has yet assessed the
need to belong in concert with an interest in fame per se. Our study
is designed to test this prediction.
1.2. Narcissism
Much scholarly and popular discussion has focused on the rise
of narcissism in American culture (e.g., Twenge & Campbell,
2009). Although psychologists continue to clarify the definitional
nuances of narcissism (grandiose vs. vulnerable subtypes; unstable
vs. truly high self-esteem), it is typically characterized by an expli-
cit perception of superiority over others and is often linked to anti-
social tendencies such as aggression and lower levels of empathy
(Bushman & Thomaes, 2011). Explanations for this increase are di-
verse and speculative, but scholars have noted a comorbid empha-
sis on self-aggrandizement in both social and entertainment media
(Konrath, O’Brien, & Hsing, 2010; Twenge & Campbell, 2009). A cul-
tural climate that celebrates self-promotion may not only render
fame appealing to those hoping to fit in, but to those hoping to
stand out. Perhaps not surprisingly, narcissism has been found to
predict an interest in fame (Maltby, 2010) and in extrinsic aspira-
tions (including a desire for fame and wealth) more broadly con-
strued (Kasser & Ryan, 1996).
One of the most elaborate recent investigations of fame interest
was undertaken by Maltby (2010), who found that narcissism was
positively correlated with Intensity (e.g., ‘‘Very little matters to me
apart from being famous’’) Celebrity Lifestyle (e.g., ‘‘I want to be
rich’’), Drive (e.g., ‘‘I work hard everyday to be famous’’), and Per-
ceived Suitability (e.g., ‘‘I’ve got what it takes to be famous’’). Nar-
cissism was not correlated significantly with altruistic motives for
fame, nor was it correlated with an acknowledged interest in fame
due to personal feelings of vulnerability (e.g., ‘‘I want to be famous
because then people would notice me’’). The present study repli-
cates and extends Maltby’s (2010) work by reassessing associa-
tions between narcissism and fame interest and constructing a
new, streamlined fame measure. Maltby’s (2010) utilized 42 items
and six subscales, which proved difficult to simplify due to high
overlap among them; we aimed for greater parsimony by generat-
ing fewer, more focused items with the goal of capturing fewer dis-
tinct factors. Further, rather than ask participants to report on a
personal investment in fame, we ask about the broader perceived
appeal of fame, which taps normative motivations. We also build
on Maltby’s (2010) work by contextualizing narcissistic links to
fame appeal with less overtly attention-seeking tendencies: the
need to belong and our final self-concept construct, a positive
sense of feeling connected to others.
1.3. Relatedness
Relatedness has been conceptualized as one of three ‘‘basic psy-
chological needs’’ by Deci and Ryan’s (2000), along with feelings of
autonomy and competence, all of which are indicators of a healthy
socio-emotional life. Scoring high on relatedness, unlike scoring
high on belongingness needs, does not indicate anxiety about so-
cial exclusion, but rather a sense of security with one’s social net-
work and the degree to which one is valued by others. Research has
found that daily feelings of relatedness—feeling understood and
having meaningful interactions with social partners—were associ-
ated with positive mood, vitality and well-being (Reis, Sheldon, Ga-
ble, Roscoe, & Ryan, 2000). Further, when one’s relational needs are
met, one may be less motivated to attain extrinsic goals such as
image, fame, and wealth (Deci & Ryan, 2000)—the latter of which
have been shown to be associated with lower levels of emotional
health and well-being (Kasser & Ryan, 1996). Compared to individ-
uals with inclusion anxiety or with heightened perceptions of their
own superiority, individuals whose social and emotional needs are
met by their existing social networks may not feel the need to fan-
tasize about being seen and valued on a grander scale.
1.4. The present study
The present study seeks to clarify how specific views of self are
associated with specific dimensions of fame appeal. The goals of
the present study were two-fold: (1) to devise a streamlined mea-
sure of fame appeal, and, (2) to determine whether and how the
need to belong, narcissism and relatedness predict specific facets
of fame appeal. With respect to the first goal, we generated a series
of items aimed to capture various motives: to be seen/recognized,
to have status/wealth, to help others or be a role model, and to
have power/control over one’s life. Although we were engaged in
exploratory scale development, we designed the scale with antici-
pated conceptual groupings in mind, which were used to generate
relevant hypotheses.
We predicted that increased belonging needs would predict in-
creased appeal of all aspects of fame because fame per se may be a
powerful draw for those with a strong desire to be a valued group
member. However, in step with prior research, we predicted that
narcissism would be linked to self-promotional aspects of fame
such as recognition and status. Conversely, we predicted that relat-
edness would be associated with other-oriented motives for fame,
if any. Individuals who feel meaningfully connected to others in
their social networks may be less likely to crave opportunities for
superficial forms of recognition or status. Finally, we predicted that
increased belongingness needs would be associated with fantasiz-
ing about fame, though not necessarily with perceived realism of
fame, whereas narcissism would predict both fantasizing and per-
ceived realism of becoming famous one day.
We anticipated that women would score higher on belonging
needs, as was previously found (Greenwood & Long, 2011), as well
D. Greenwood et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 55 (2013) 490–495 491
as on relatedness and other-oriented fame appeal, given socializa-
tion practices that encourage women to be more vigilant about
forming/maintaining social relationships (Eagly, 1987). In step
with prior research, we anticipated that men might score higher
on narcissism than women (e.g., Foster, Campbell, & Twenge,
2003). Finally, we expected that age might be inversely related to
fame interest and narcissism, both of which have been found to
be prevalent or salient for younger generations (Foster et al.,
2003; Uhls & Greenfield, 2012).
2. Methods
2.1. Participants
Participants were recruited from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (US
sample) for a study entitled ‘‘Self and culture survey,’’ which they
were told would take approximately 20 minutes to complete and
yield compensation of USD $.65 for their time. Originally 408
individuals completed the survey. After various exclusions (e.g.,
technical difficulties, unreasonably short response times, missing
responses to key demographic items), the final sample was
n= 371 (52% male). The mean age of the sample was 31
(range = 18–73 years; 75% of the sample 635 years old). Self-
reports indicated 78% of the sample identified as White/Caucasian,
8% identified as Asian (broadly defined), 5% identified as Black or
African American, 5% as Latino/a, 3% as biracial, .5% as Native
American and .5% unclear (e.g., ‘‘American’’).
2.2. Measures
2.2.1. Need to belong (NTB)
Belonging needs were assessed via Leary et al.’s (2005) 10-item
scale (e.g., ‘‘I do not like being alone’’
a
= .86). Responses were
made on a 1–7 scale (Disagree Strongly to Agree Strongly).
2.2.2. Narcissism
For brevity, we utilized a single-item narcissism scale (SINS)
measure developed by Konrath et al. (2013): ‘‘To what extent do
you agree with this statement: ‘I am a narcissist.’ (Note: The word
‘‘narcissist’’ means egotistical, self-focused, vain, etc.).’’ Responses
were made on an 11-pt scale (Not very true of me to Very true of
me). Though potentially counter-intuitive, this scale is in step with
research suggesting that narcissistic individuals are aware of their
narcissistic tendencies (Carlson, 2013). The SINS has shown reli-
able associations with diverse measures of narcissism across at
least 10 different survey samples (Konrath et al., 2013).
2.2.3. Relatedness
We utilized the 9-item Relatedness subscale from the Basic Psy-
chological Needs scale (Deci & Ryan, 2000; adapted from Kasser,
Davey, & Ryan, 1992; e.g., ‘‘I consider the people I regularly interact
with to be my friends’’;
a
= .84).
2.2.4. Fame appeal
To determine whether specific psychological differences might
be linked to distinct motivations for being famous, we initially gen-
erated 25 items designed to capture various imagined appeals of
being famous: being seen/recognized, enjoying a high status/
wealthy lifestyle, helping others, and feeling powerful. Scale
instructions asked ‘‘Which of the following aspects of fame seem
most appealing to you, if at all...?’’ (7-pt scale: Not very appealing
to Very appealing).
Our initial exploratory factor analysis (promax rotation, maxi-
mum likelihood) yielded four factors in line with the above
descriptions. However, the final factor capturing feelings of domi-
nance, accounted for 2.9% of the variance and the highest loading
item was .52 (‘‘feeling powerful’’); the rest showed numerous
cross-loadings (‘‘showing up people who didn’t believe in you,’’
‘‘being able to call the shots regarding your future,’’ ‘‘being the best
in your field’’: P.32 on more than one factor, following criteria
from Tabachnick & Fidell, 2001). When these items and other
cross-loading items were dropped from the analysis, three distinct
factors remained. The final 18-item scale comprised factors we
have labeled: Visibility (Eigenvalue = 6.95, 38.6% of variance), Sta-
tus (Eigenvalue = 2.67, 14.8% of variance) and Prosocial (Eigen-
value = 1.55, 8.6% of variance). Table 1 shows factor loadings and
item wording. All three factors were moderately correlated with
one another (shown in Table 2).
1
Two final items asked how often participants imagined being
famous: Fame Fantasy; (never, rarely, sometimes, often) and how
realistic they believed it was that they would become famous
one day: Fame Realism (7-pt scale; Not at all to Extremely).
2.3. Procedure
Self-concept measures (Narcissism, NTB and Relatedness) were
counterbalanced with fame measures (alongside other related con-
structs not the focus of the present study). At the end of the survey,
participants were provided with a debriefing page.
3. Results
3.1. Preliminary analyses: gender and age
We ran a MANOVA (Bonferroni-corrected) to determine which,
if any, psychological or fame variables differed as a function of
Table 1
Factor loadings for fame appeal items.
Item Factor 1
(Visibility)
Factor 2
(Status)
Factor 3
(Prosocial)
Being on the cover of a magazine .845 .026 .023
Having your picture taken .834 .060 .017
Being recognized in public .812 .052 .062
Doing press interviews .774 .172 .053
Being asked for your autograph .730 .034 .023
Have a lot of followers on Twitter or
other social media
.701 .097 .070
Attending awards shows .647 .169 .028
Being a spokesperson for favorite
products or brands
.621 .044 .134
Having the ability to travel in first
class and stay at exclusive resorts
.126 .864 .032
Receiving free gifts of luxury items .070 .781 .055
Living in a mansion or penthouse
apartment
.050 .767 .036
Having VIP access to the best
restaurants
.042 .757 .056
Having an expensive/fashionable
wardrobe
.276 .571 .051
Being financially secure .215 .454 .220
Being able to financially support
family and friends
.192 .073 .660
Making family/friends proud .068 .030 .634
Being able to use your fame for
important causes
.032 .081 .617
Being a role model to others? .263 .122 .606
Note: Bolded numbers represent highest loading items on each factor (items reor-
dered by factor).
1
Additional validation for the fame measure comes from more recently collected
data by the first author; the fame measure shows the same factor structure in a
college sample and the same basic patterns regarding narcissism (using the more
traditional NPI) and belonging.
492 D. Greenwood et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 55 (2013) 490–495
participant gender. Results showed that women scored higher than
men on NTB, F(1, 343) = 5.35, p< .05 (M= 4.2 > M= 3.9); and on
both the Status fame factor, F(1, 343) = 4.30, p< .05
(M= .10 > M=.11) and Prosocial fame factor, F(1, 343) = 5.90,
p< .05 (M= .13 > M=.10). Men scored marginally higher on Nar-
cissism (p< .09), and Fame Fantasy (p< .06) than women did.
We performed additional correlations to examine expected in-
verse associations between our broad age range (18–73) and key
study variables. Age was inversely related to all variables except
for Prosocial fame factor (ns) and Relatedness, r(363) = .12,
p< .05.
2
Thus, younger individuals were higher on Narcissism,
Belonging, Visibility and Status fame appeals, Fame Fantasy and
Fame Realism than their older counterparts, but lower on feelings
of Relatedness.
Due to the above differences, we control for age and gender in
the analyses below. However, it is worth noting that results are vir-
tually analogous, with only minor exceptions, when these covari-
ates are not included.
3.2. Primary analyses
Means and partial correlations (controlling for age and gender)
for key study variables are presented in Table 2. NTB was robustly
correlated with all fame measures except for Fame Realism; Nar-
cissism showed positive associations with all fame measures ex-
cept Prosocial. In contrast, Relatedness was only significant
associated with Prosocial fame appeal. Moderate correlations
emerged among fame factors and between fame factors and Fame
Fantasy/Realism, as might be expected. Narcissism was inversely
correlated with Relatedness; neither was significantly associated
with NTB.
To determine the relative contribution of the psychological con-
structs to each fame factor, we ran three hierarchical linear regres-
sions, including gender and age in Step 1 and NTB, Narcissism, and
Relatedness in Step 2. Both steps in each model explained a signif-
icant portion of the variance for each regression. As shown in
Table 3, each of the significant correlational relationships noted
above remain significant when the psychological predictors are
considered simultaneously.
4. Discussion
The present study examined how three different indices of so-
cial self-concept: belonging, narcissism and relatedness, predicted
attitudes towards being famous. Although prior research has fo-
cused on links between narcissism and fame, ours is the first to
additionally consider whether concerns about or contentment with
perceived social value were meaningfully related to fame attitudes.
Our measure of fame appeal resulted in three factors: the desire to
be seen/valued (Visibility) accounted for the most variance, fol-
lowed by the desire for an elite, high status lifestyle (Status) and
the desire to use fame to help others or make them proud (Proso-
cial). Our findings show that both belongingness needs and narcis-
sism were associated with multiple dimensions of fame appeal,
whereas relatedness was only associated with the prosocial factor.
Individuals with heightened belongingness needs were drawn
to all aspects of fame, except for a belief in fame realism. Both
Table 2
Means and intercorrelations (controlling for gender and age) among study variables.
Mean SD NTB Narc Relate Visibility Status Prosocial Fantasy Realism
NTB 4.05 1.02 – .10 .06 .26
**
.21
**
.18
**
.19
**
.03
Narc 3.84 2.51 .13 .15
*
.11
*
.01 .14
*
.13
*
Relate 5.02 .88 .04 .05 .29
**
.04 .00
Visibility – .48
**
.42
**
.55
**
.37
**
Status – .56
**
.28
**
.05
Prosocial – .26
**
.17
*
Fantasy 2.18 .84 .37
**
Realism 1.87 1.19
Note: NTB is need to belong (7-pt scale), Narc is Narcissism (11-pt scale), Relate is Relatedness (7-pt scale), Visibility, Status and Prosocial are the three fame factors
(Means = 0; SDs = .96, .95, & .88, respectively). Fantasy is Fame Fantasy (1–4, never, rarely, sometimes, often) and Realism is Fame Realism (7-pt scale). Pairwise correlations
were used to account for missing data across variables.
*
p6.05.
**
p6.001.
Table 3
Hierarchical regression analyses predicting fame factors from Need to Belong, Narcissism, and Relatedness.
Variable Fame factor: Visibility Fame factor: Status Fame factor: Prosocial
BSEB bR
2
F-change B SEB bR
2
F-change B SEB bR
2
F-change
Step 1 .02 3.69
*
.04 6.25
**
.01 3.41
*
Gender .03 .10 .01 .25 .10 .13
*
.24 .09 .14
*
Age .01 .01 .14
**
.01 .00 .16
**
.00 .00 .05
Step 2 .12 8.29
**
.09 6.88
**
.12 10.39
**
Gender .08 .10 .04 .19 .10 .10 .18 .09 .10
*
Age .01 .01 .07 .01 .01 .12
*
.00 .00 .05
NTB .24 .05 .26
**
.19 .05 .20
**
.15 .04 .18
**
Narcissism .05 .02 .14
**
.04 .02 .11
*
.01 .02 .02
Relatedness .03 .06 .03 .05 .06 .05 .27 .05 .28
**
Note: NTB = Need to Belong; gender is coded such that males are the reference.
*
p< .05.
**
p6.01.
2
Age was inversely corre lated with Visibility, r(361) = .14, p< .01; Status,
r(361) = .14, p< .01; Fame Fantasy, r(368) = .17, p= .001; Fame Realism,
r(369) = .18, p< .001; Narcissism, r(369) = .22, p< .001 and NTB, r(368) = .15,
p< .01.
D. Greenwood et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 55 (2013) 490–495 493
self-oriented and prosocial fame motives appear to be relevant to
affiliative goals. However, for this group, fame motives appear con-
fined to fantasy. It is possible that fame fantasizing-and the imag-
ined social worth it confers-provides a soothing escape from
anxieties about inclusion. In the best case, such imaginings may
boost mood and enable rehearsal of competent, valued selves.
However, similar to the questions arising from research on paraso-
cial engagement with media figures (Greenwood & Long, 2011), it
is possible that the allure of fame may inhibit more fruitful ways of
meeting inclusion needs—via strengthening actual relationships
within one’s social network. It is also possible that fame fantasy
may exacerbate the discrepancy between actual and ideal selves
when a more realistic perspective returns. Longitudinal research
is needed to clarify whether fame fantasizing promotes or inter-
feres with well-being.
Narcissism was associated with all aspects of fame except for
using fame for prosocial causes, in step with prior work (Maltby’s
2010). More narcissistic individuals were focused on the recogni-
tion and elite status that fame confers, and believed future fame
to be more realistic than their less narcissistic counterparts.
Although those scoring higher on narcissism admit to being egotis-
tical and vain, and those scoring high on belongingness needs ad-
mit that they feel unhappy to be left out or alone, both groups
appear to share a common need to be seen and valued on a large
scale. Further, although the two constructs were not correlated in
this study, findings shed light on the implied social vulnerability
that may accompany narcissism and also help elucidate visibility
needs that may underlie belongingness needs. Whether an interest
in fame ultimately perpetuates this vulnerability is an important
question for future research.
Individuals scoring high on relatedness (inversely correlated
with narcissism) only showed an increased interest in prosocial
fame—using fame to benefit close others (e.g., helping friends/fam-
ily financially) or generalized others (e.g., using fame to advance a
cause). It is intuitive that individuals who are securely nested with-
in social networks would also report a high interest in using fame
to help others. More difficult to interpret, however, are the lack of
significant associations with other dimensions of fame appeal. At a
minimum, individuals high on Relatedness may not feel compelled
or reviled by the idea of fame. Future work is needed to clarify
these possibilities.
Age was inversely related to the fame variables, as well as nar-
cissism and the need to belong. A fascination with fame may
emerge early in life, as adolescents struggle with identity and
belonging. Markus and Nurius’s (1986) seminal work on possible
selves documents the widespread tendency for young people to
imagine that a future self is a ‘‘media personality’’ (vs. a janitor,
for example). Further, Uhls and Greenfield (2012) found that a de-
sire for fame was the most popular future goal among 10–12 year
olds, overshadowing hopes for achievement and community feel-
ing. They note that the developmental preoccupations regarding
‘‘peer acceptance’’ that characterizes early adolescence might
make the social recognition that comes with fame all the more
appealing (p. 954). Although the patterns we identified between
self-concept and fame remained significant after accounting for
age, future research should continue to focus on the role of fame
appeal and self-concept among younger individuals.
Women scored higher than men on the status and prosocial
fame appeals and on belonging needs. While the latter two may re-
flect an increased affiliative focus among women, the status link
was unexpected and merits replication. It is possible that women
are more often targeted by materialistic media norms than men
(e.g., having an expensive/fashionable wardrobe), which may in-
crease attunement to and appeal of elite status.
Our study is limited by the self-report nature of the items, as
well as by the use of a non-traditional single-item scale to measure
narcissism. However, the latter has been used successfully numer-
ous times (Konrath et al., 2013) and showed expected associations
with key study variables in the present study. Our measure of fame
appeal was similar to Maltby’s (2010), but it was also distinct in
some key ways. Although we similarly identified an other-oriented
basis for fame appeal, our factor analysis resulted in a division be-
tween the appeal of being recognized and valued, and the appeal of
a high status lifestyle, which Maltby’s (2010) scale had combined
into one ‘‘celebrity lifestyle’’ dimension. As noted earlier, we also
opted to frame items in terms of general fame appeal to capture
a more normative vs. personal investment in fame. Both scales
may have utility in different contexts; we are eager to pursue
and encourage future refinement and/or elaboration of fame
motivations.
Ultimately, we believe this is a fruitful and understudied area of
psychological research. Individuals’ affinity for fame tells us not
only about its perceived social psychological value, but about the
perceived social psychological value of an individual’s self-concept.
The desire to ‘‘light up the sky like a flame,’’ as the lyrics to the hit
song/musical, Fame, suggest, may reflect both the basic human
need to be seen and valued, and the extent to which such needs
are salient or unmet for a given individual.
Acknowledgment
Many thanks are due to Kent Harber for his early enthusiasm
and input on this research project.
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