The Brain Science of Being a Celeberity


The Oscars, Grammys, Tonys, Golden Globes!

Why do millions of Americans even watch these television programs? It is just simply people walking down a runway in a fancy gown, clapping, and earning a mini gold statue. Why do we care?

Today, on the Neuro Bureau, we will discuss celebrities and what makes them so fascinating.

First, we need to understand the need for celebrities. In evolutionary times, we would admire the person that was most likely to fend off a predator. The more confidence the evolutionary celebrities had,  the more likely they are to continue to protect everyone.

Today, humans have become such a strong species, our celebrities no longer fight off predators but dance, sing, act, make scientific discoveries.

Yet, understanding status still benefits us. We need to know who to talk to and who to be seen with in order to be well received by others and survive. Someone who considered to be mean may have a lower status, and therefore it is more “dangerous” for us to befriend them.

Identifying celebrities and status occurs in our pre-frontal cortex. The pre-frontal cortex manages social cognition and executive control. So what this means is that celebrities help us identify the rules of society and what makes someone likable. We look to them to see how we should be.


Prefrontal cortex diagram


Having the ability to identify rank is critical to human development. For one, we not only associate celebrities with fame but also money, friendship, and admiration. The more we learn about celebrities, the more we desire the person because of all the benefits they gain from their social standing. This, in turn, helps us decide what we want to do to help gain their social status. For example, le’ts say Beyonce wears a yellow dress that everyone loves. We will then wear that yellow dress in a desperate attempt to gain celebrity status like her.


Slay Queen B!


What age does this occur? A study for Dr. Lotte Thomsen at Harvard Universty found that humans begin differentiating status as early as 10 months of age!


Baby-you knew who was cool and who was not!


The reason celebrity magazines do so well? Because we love dishing the dirt and bad information on celebrities. When we bring them down, it makes us for a momentary moment feel equal to them. We actually stimulate our reward pathways when we gossip because it makes us feel social adept in comparison. Again, the prefrontal cortex also lights up when we hear gossip.


This celebrity culture not only extends itself to red carpets but also your personal life. Having a high rank, even if it is just in a workplace or school, is still a manifestation of the celebrity culture.




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