The psychology of fandoms

Fandom: “the fans of a particular person, team, fictional series, etc. regarded collectively as a community or subculture.”

This is the dictionary definition of what has helped define the structure of pop culture today. What has been occurring for thousands of years has definitely come to fruition overtime, and now these fandoms overpower the music, art, and niche interest scene. Today, I listened to a Podcast featuring PhD Psychologist and current pop star, Marina Diamandis.

First of all, the Podcast started to discuss how someone becomes a fan, and why people become so quickly obsessed with a person they don’t personally know. This question was then answered because studies show that we as people can identify with others, particularly with musical lyrics. When a person listens to a song and finds that their ideals match with the ideals posed in the lyrics, the listener therefore, is more likely to resonate with the artist, creating a surge of positive audio sensory neurotransmitters; and she/he/they become attached to the artist. The same idea applies when we are falling out of touch with an artist. When we no longer find ourselves identifying with an artist, we lose attachment to their music and persona, so we no longer find ourselves listening to their music because we no longer have that rush of positive neurotransmitters.

Secondly, the theory I found the most interesting was the “Tall Poppy Syndrome”. This ideology was explained stating, “poppy fields are so soft and beautiful. Everybody loves poppies. However, when one poppy is too tall, we must cut the poppy down. The shorter poppies refuse to feel short, so they figure all flowers must be to their height”. This theory was used in response to online bullying, particularly towards musicians on social media. Social media has opened a door that allows for a surge of negativity, because negative comments and hate speech is now the cultural norm. When insecure people see a star that is just too famous and successful, some will start compare the star to themselves intrinsically and feel upset towards the person they once cherished now that they’ve reached more famed heights. These insecure people feel they must cut the “poppy” down by leaving negative commentary on social media.

I also learned that there is a legitimate reason for people either falling in love with an artist all over again, or staying loyal to the star for such a long period of time, despite the fact that the music may not be a personal cup of tea anymore. This is because of the olfactory in our brains, the nostalgia receptor. For example, if you smell a perfume that your ex used to wear, you may go into a sense of panic, because you’re able to remember the scent and what/who it is connected to. The same goes with music. The psychologist in the podcast used the example of Paul McCartney. Although Paul may not be young and making psychedelic music anymore, he has thousands of people attend his concerts, who almost all happen to be seniors/late middle aged people. This is because of the nostalgic attachment Paul’s listeners have formed to him. Listening to Paul reminds these now 62 year olds of how they felt when they were 12 years old and listening to The Beatles on the radio in their basement. The olfactory almost holds a teleportation-like feature, which people can find either quite comforting (in this case) or worrisome in other cases.

I really didn’t know that our brains could have such an impact on the music we listen to and attachments we grow from said music. It’s quite mind blowing and I really hope I can continue to study more psychological topics like this in the future.


Recent Posts

See All