Celebrity Contagion and the Value of Objects
Why do people purchase objects that were once owned by celebrities, such as film stars or politicians, and also by despised individuals, such as serial killers and notorious dictators? The present studies examine three potential explanations: mere associations, market demands, and contagion (the belief that these objects contain some remnants of their previous owners). Results indicate that while market demands do play a role, contagion appears to be the critical factor affecting the valuation of celebrity possessions. Manipulating the degree of physical contact that a celebrity has with an object dramatically influences consumers’ willingness to purchase it, and individual differences in sensitivity to contagion moderate this effect. Additionally, the valuation of celebrity possessions is principally explained by measures of contagion, and subliminally activating the concept of contagion changes consumers’ willingness to purchase celebrity objects. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.
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