Parasocial Relationships (Relationships Model Answers) (Paper 3 Model Answers)

Discuss what psychological research has told us about why people develop parasocial relationships.

(Total 16 marks)

Model Answers 

Psychological research has provided insights into why people develop parasocial relationships, which are one-sided connections formed with media personalities or celebrities. At a superficial level, these relationships serve as a source of entertainment and enjoyment for individuals. According to the entertainment-social approach proposed by McCutcheon (2002), people develop parasocial relationships as a means of satisfying their need for entertainment and escapism. The media figures they are drawn to provide a source of excitement, inspiration, and diversion from their own lives.

However, at more extreme levels, the development of parasocial relationships can be attributed to factors such as absorption-addiction or attachment problems. The absorption-addiction perspective suggests that individuals with certain personal inadequacies, such as a weak personal identity or unsatisfying real-life relationships, may develop a strong desire for complete psychological involvement in the life of the media figure. They may mistakenly believe or delude themselves into thinking that the attention and feelings they invest in the celebrity are reciprocated. This intense psychological involvement serves as a form of escape from their own realities and offers a sense of fulfillment.

Alternatively, the attachment explanation posits that individuals with insecure-resistant attachment styles may seek fulfillment through relationships that do not carry the risk of rejection. They may feel a strong need for emotional connection and intimacy, which they attempt to fulfill through parasocial relationships. These individuals may perceive media figures as safe and non-threatening objects of attachment, providing them with a sense of security and comfort.

When discussing the phenomenon of parasocial relationships, several considerations arise. Firstly, the development of parasocial relationships can have both positive and negative consequences. On one hand, they may serve as a source of inspiration, entertainment, and companionship. On the other hand, excessive involvement in parasocial relationships can lead to neglect of real-life relationships and contribute to social isolation. Secondly, individual differences play a role in the formation and intensity of parasocial relationships. Factors such as personal insecurities, attachment styles, and the need for escapism can influence the level of investment individuals have in these relationships. Lastly, ethical concerns arise when parasocial relationships become obsessive or delusional, as they may have detrimental effects on individuals' mental health and well-being.

In practical terms, understanding the reasons behind the development of parasocial relationships can inform media literacy programs and help individuals develop a balanced perspective on their interactions with media figures. Educating individuals about the nature of parasocial relationships, their potential risks, and promoting healthy boundaries can empower individuals to engage with media content in a more mindful and critical manner. Additionally, promoting opportunities for meaningful real-life relationships and social connections can help mitigate the excessive reliance on parasocial relationships as a substitute for genuine human interaction.

 

Researchers wished to study the link between attachment and parasocial relationships. They surveyed a stratified sample of 100 18-year-old students from four different schools. Some schools had a large number of students and others had a smaller number of students. The students were asked questions about their childhood, their feelings towards celebrities and about their friendships at school.

Discuss the attachment theory explanation for parasocial relationships. Refer to the likely findings of the study above in your answer.

(Total 16 marks)

Model Answer

The attachment theory explanation for parasocial relationships suggests that individuals with different attachment styles may be more inclined to develop such relationships. Attachment theory posits that individuals develop internal working models of relationships based on their early experiences with caregivers, which shape their expectations and behaviors in future relationships.

In the context of parasocial relationships, individuals with insecure attachment styles, such as insecure-resistant or insecure-avoidant, may be more likely to form strong attachments to celebrities or media figures. The study described above, which surveyed 18-year-old students, could potentially shed light on this link between attachment and parasocial relationships. By examining the students' responses regarding their childhood experiences, feelings towards celebrities, and friendships at school, researchers could identify patterns that align with attachment theory.

For example, if the study finds that students who report having insecure-resistant attachment styles are more likely to express intense emotional connections to celebrities, it would support the attachment theory explanation. This finding would align with the idea that individuals with insecure-resistant attachment styles have a greater need for emotional connection and may seek it through parasocial relationships. Similarly, if students with insecure-avoidant attachment styles exhibit a tendency to downplay or dismiss the significance of parasocial relationships, it would further support the attachment theory explanation.

The study's findings could provide empirical evidence linking attachment styles and parasocial relationships, offering support for the idea that early attachment experiences influence later relationship patterns, including those formed with media figures. However, it is important to consider that the study's findings would be specific to the sample of 18-year-old students from the selected schools. Generalizing the results to the broader population would require additional research with more diverse samples.

Furthermore, the study's findings should be interpreted cautiously, as correlation does not imply causation. While the results may suggest an association between attachment styles and parasocial relationships, other factors could also contribute to the development of such relationships. Additionally, the study's reliance on self-report measures introduces the potential for biases and social desirability effects.

 

Briefly outline the absorption addiction model of parasocial relationships.( 2 marks) 

Model Answer

The absorption-addiction model of parasocial relationships suggests that individuals develop intense relationships with media figures due to personal inadequacies and a desire to escape real life. It proposes that individuals with weak personal identities and poor real-life relationships are more likely to seek complete psychological involvement in the lives of celebrities. These individuals may have a mistaken belief or delusion that their attention and feelings towards the celebrity are reciprocated, leading to a deep emotional attachment. The absorption-addiction model emphasises the role of personal factors and psychological needs in the formation of parasocial relationships.

 

Explain two limitations of the absorption addiction model of parasocial relationships. ( 6 marks) 

Model Answer

One limitation of the absorption addiction model of parasocial relationships is its heavy focus on individual deficiencies and personal inadequacies as the sole explanations for the development of these relationships. While personal factors may play a role, it overlooks the broader societal and cultural influences that contribute to the formation of parasocial relationships. Factors such as media exposure, socialisation processes, and cultural norms can also shape individuals' attraction to and engagement with media figures. Therefore, attributing parasocial relationships solely to personal deficiencies fails to consider the complex interplay of various social and environmental factors that contribute to their development.

Another limitation of the absorption addiction model is its assumption that parasocial relationships are always unhealthy or indicative of maladaptive behavior. While it is true that some individuals may form intense and unrealistic attachments to media figures, not all parasocial relationships have negative consequences. Research has shown that parasocial relationships can provide companionship, entertainment, and a sense of belonging to individuals, particularly those who may be lonely or socially isolated. Some individuals may engage in parasocial relationships as a form of harmless entertainment or as a means of seeking social connection in the absence of real-life relationships. Therefore, the model's narrow focus on the negative aspects of parasocial relationships overlooks the potential positive functions they may serve for individuals in certain contexts.

 

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