How do celebrities stay famous?

New study shows why some stay in spotlight regardless of talent

How do celebrities like Victoria Beckham, whose band broke up long ago, manage to stay in the spotlight? According to a new study, the human desire to find shared conversational ground drives us to discuss already popular people, New Scientist reports. The study, which looked at professional American baseball players, and whether conversation could drive fame, independent of quality. A team led by Nathanael Fast of Stanford University gave a list of eight baseball players with statistics on the previous season’s performance to 33 male, and 56 female, volunteers. They then wrote a short email to another participant about the player. More often than not, subjects talked about popular but under-performing players like Ken Griffey Jr, rather than more obscure players who performed well. Looking at Internet message boards and media covers, including fan balloting for the annual “All-Star” game, the researchers found players who got the most All-Star votes also got the most attention. Fame is self-perpetuating, they argue: prominent people stay popular past their expiry date because they drive conversation, which then drives media coverage.

New Scientist

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