king of pop

The common responses to celebrity deaths demonstrate important realities about how people build relationships with the media they consume, according to a Kansas State University cognitive psychologist. Richard Harris, professor of psychology, has studied a number of aspects of the psychology of mass communication. His focus has been on how people acquire knowledge from media. Among his studies has been an examination of how watching certain media with different people influences the experience. He has also studied how people remember certain media experiences.

Harris says many people develop relationships with media characters in a similar manner to how they do so in real life. This phenomenon is referred to as parasocial interaction. The one-sided relationship is most commonly observed between celebrities and their fans…

Spontaneous displays of grieving after the death of a famous person or celebrity are not new. For example, impromptu memorials appeared for Princess Diana, Michael Jackson and John Lennon following their deaths.

Harris said these losses have a distinct difference from the loss of a family member. “We don’t have the social structures and support for grieving the loss of a media character or, in particular, a fictional character,” Harris said. “Somebody’s real upset that their favorite soap opera character was killed off yesterday and they tell someone about that and they laugh. It’s a very different reaction than if their grandmother had died.” –Science Daily

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story about the death of a celebrity and the world’s reaction to it. Put in a surprise twist.

Journaling Prompt: Write about how you react to the death of celebrities.

Art Prompt: Celebrity Death

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Write about the obsession with celebrity and how it affects culture.

Photo Credit: Cain and Todd Benson on Flickr

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