Brains hardwired to accept celebrities' health advice
People are more willing to trust celebrity health advice, even though they often tout dubious medical information, because our brain forces us to do so, according to a study published in BMJ. Researchers say it’s more than just cultural norms.
The scientists reviewed more than 200 years of data, and found that there are deeply-rooted biological, psychological and social forces at play that make celebrity health advice influential. These psychological effects include classical conditioning, self-conception, cognitive dissonance, the halo effect and herd behavior.
For example, the halo effect allows the brain to confuse success in other fields, such as modeling or acting, with success in all fields, such as medical advocacy. Classical conditioning applies the positive responses we tend to have towards celebrities towards whatever the celebrity is pushing. Self-conception assumes the positive traits celebrities have can also be attributed to their cause, and herd behavior helps celebrities trigger a person’s natural tendency to act as others in similar situations. Cognitive dissonance allows us to unconsciously rationalize celebrity medical advice to reduce our psychological discomfort because we would otherwise not agree with their view.
The researchers said celebrity advice is often taken out of context, that it typically ignores risks and is influenced by their own financial interests. They noted that medical professionals should be aware of what celebrities are saying so they can counter their advice with accurate medical information.