Imagine a fan.

Does the fan look like either of these?


I'm guessing it does.

When I asked about psychology at the beginning of our Fandom Studies class, I was wondering what, if anything, is the cause behind fans. What makes them what they are? Are certain people more likely, or predisposed, to become a fan? When I asked, I thought there was a difference between people, one that denotes who is more likely to be a fan than others. I thought that the stereotype was right, and that fans are either the greasy-haired slacker that spends all day on the computer, or the ridiculously beefed-up die-hard, screaming-at-the-television-screen-even-though-they-can’t-hear-you sports fan. But that difference doesn’t exist. Everyone has the capability of becoming a fan (findingDulcinea).

Psychology pays a role more in the type of fan each person is. Studies have shown that sports fans, when watching their sport, and/or team, of choice, have the same rush as the athletes. “[a]rdent fans actually experience the same hormonal ebbs and surges as do athletes during the game [and the] self-esteem of die-hard supporters mimics their team’s performance” (findingDulcinea). This physiological and emotional response makes fans feel a connection. That connection is what prompts those whose team has won to shout and cheer, “We won! We won!” And why the loss of their team hits them so hard, even when they are only the spectator (Ashish).

“Even among non-avid supporters, sport manages to bring about physiological changes, which induce various emotions like euphoria, dejection, and stress” (Ashish). Another study has shown that, for males, testosterone levels rise dramatically when their teams win, and drop just as drastically when they lose (Ashish). This leads to spikes in the males’ and females’ belief in their ability in many areas, including “sex appeal [and] mental and physical tests, like darts and word games” (Ashish).

Why do fans become fans, though? History influences the decision in a couple of ways: “[i]n many cases, people follow the sports they themselves play as children,” and if people have grown up with strong fans, they tend to continue this tradition (Mullan). The area people grow up in is also a strong determinant of which team they will choose to be a part of (Mullan).

Many fans agree on the one attractor that most recognize, that of a sense of community. When people come together to like something, any hindrance that might have been there is gone, and people have the ability of becoming instant friends. As long as one is a fan of something, a true fan, one will always have a place, online or otherwise, where one can feel one belongs. For many, this is irresistible.

external image chocolate-keyboard.jpg

At least in my experience, there is a general idea of what being a fan means. A person can be a fan of chocolate. Fandom isn’t so exclusive as that. Now, many would not involve themselves in a fandom about chocolate, but it is the topic of conversation sometimes; people gather and discuss and eat chocolate. But when one thinks of a “fan” one generally thinks of sports, or movies, or books, or any number of entertainment sources. A person can be a fan of art or theatre or celebrities, actors, musicians. This is where psychology comes in, too. What each person is a fan of is determined by the same factors that come into play when sports fan choose their team. If a person has grown up surrounded by Star Trek, and their parents are avid fans, this will influence their perception and fandom of Star Trek. This is psychology, the thought processes behind choices, actions, and behaviors.

So while psychology does not play a direct role in why people become fans, in terms of genes and biological or physiological predisposition, psychology does have a part in the decisions about each person’s fandom. How casual or “hardcore” they become, how they use their fandom to cope, or just to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Why does this matter? Once we can begin to understand fandom in all of its intricacies, we can begin to understand each other.