What keeps celebrities famous 'forever'?

Nathanael Fast of Stanford University in California and his colleagues have tried to answer why some stars burn bright, long, long after their talent has faded – if it ever was there to begin with.
The new study by a team of psychologists led by Fast suggests that people need something to talk about. The human desire to find common ground in conversation pushes us to discuss already popular people, Fast underlined.
The study, published in the journal 'Psychological Science' suggests that gossip column celebrities stay popular for longer than they ought to because they serve as conversational fodder, which in turn drives more media coverage.
The peak of the Spice Girls' popularity has long passed, but 'Posh Spice' Victoria is still splashed in the world media. And Paris Hilton, who is famous for her lifestyle alone, makes headlines around the globe on a daily basis.
"Take Paris Hilton, somehow or another she became well known and now people are more likely to talk about her," Fast was quoted as saying by the New scientist online.
Mark Schaller, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, agrees. "It does provide an answer to the question of why fame is self-perpetuating, even when the famous person isn't doing anything fame-worthy anymore."

To determine if conversation could drive fame, independent of quality, Fast's psychology study focused not on gossip column celebrities, but on professional baseball players in the US.
As part of the study, a list of eight baseball players with statistics on their previous season's performance were distributed to 33 male and 56 female volunteers, who were asked to pick a name from the list and draft a short email to another person in the group about the player. In some cases, the volunteer was told that the person receiving the email was an avid fan.
The researchers, more often than not, found that volunteers conversed about popular but under-performing players.
Volunteers who were baseball fans themselves tended to pick an obscure player if they thought they were emailing an expert. "The very experts who could kind of inform everyone else don't. They actually keep feeding them the information they already know because that helps establish a connection," Fast said.
In an effort to test their theory on a bigger scale, the researchers examined the relationships between fan chatter on internet message boards, media coverage, and an objective measure of a player's popularity – fan balloting for the annual "All-Star" game.
The study found that players who received the most All-Star votes also captured the most media coverage and message-board attention. A statistical analysis, however, suggested that internet conversations, particularly on message boards not devoted to baseball, drove media coverage and All-Star game votes, the report said.

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