Photo Credit: Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images
Since 2013 is coming to a close, most news organizations and websites are producing their “best of” (and “worst of”) stories of the year. So when searching for these types of year-end health features, I was immediately drawn to a piece posted on MedicalDaily.com which covers the biggest celebrity health battles.
The number one story of the year was of course Angeline Jolie, who made a decision to undergo a preventive double mastectomy when genetic testing revealed she was at a high risk for developing both breast and ovarian cancer. In fact, so many women around the globe have become proactive about their breast health that doctors (or maybe it was just the media) have dubbed it “The Angelina Jolie Effect.”
Question: Would all of these women have run for a mammogram or genetic testing if Angelina was not the A-lister she is, but just their cousin, friend or co-worker? Maybe a few women, but I highly doubt the majority would have done more than send a “thinking of you” email.
Why or why are we so influenced by celebrities? Is it because of their talent? Their good looks? Their publicity team? According to researchers at McMaster University in Ontario it has to do with the way our brains are wired.
Steven Hoffman, lead study author and assistant professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at McMaster University's DeGroote School of Medicine told LiveScience that there are numerous psychological factors involved, including classical conditioning (Pavlov’s dog, with the celeb as Pavlov and you as the dog), self-conception (“He’s hot, I’m following his cause”), cognitive dissonance (“I know his advice sound kooky, but I love him so I’m going to follow his plan anyway”), the halo effect (“He’s the best actor, which means he’s the best at everything”) and herd behavior (“If he’s doing it, that means everyone is doing it”).
Angelina seems to have made a positive impact in terms of breast health. As for the other celebrities mentioned in the MedicalDaily article...:
Michael Douglas, who put the spotlight on throat cancer…no, tongue cancer…no, who are we kidding, oral sex.
Amanda Bynes, who reminded us that mental illness is no laughing matter (regardless of a very comical Twitter account)
Football players, who realized that countless hits in the head can lead to brain-related injuries. Wow.
And Chris Brown, who showed us that the halo effect is not a factor with every celebrity.