Celebrity endorsement has a strong influence on the general population. However, this effect was typically studied in the context of celebrities’ support for non- controversial topics. We wanted to see if celebrities would have the same effect when they supported controversial topics. It is hypothesized that those who are exposed to a liked celebrity endorsing a conspiracy theory will be more inclined to accept the theory.
Additionally, celebrity endorsement for a controversial topic has the potential to cause the celebrity to be less liked. If an individual learns that a celebrity supports a controversial topic like a conspiracy theory, an individual might start to question why they support and like that celebrity if they do not share the same ideas or values. Therefore, it is hypothesized that those who are exposed to a liked celebrity endorsing a conspiracy theory will report lower parasocial relationships (feelings of kinship) with the liked celebrity than those who were not exposed to the endorsement.
In an experiment, participants were asked to choose their favorite celebrity. Participants were then randomly assigned to be exposed or not to be exposed to a fake news article discussing a celebrity endorsing the conspiracy theory regarding the moon landing. Participants were then asked questions to measure their parasocial relationship with the celebrity and their opinions regarding the moon landing. In line with H1, people reported stronger belief in the conspiracy theory if they were exposed to the article. However, H2 was not supported as there was no effect of celebrity endorsement on parasocial relationships.
Stern, Lindsay; Munyon, Kendal; and Davis, Hunter, "The Impact of Celebrity Endorsement of a Conspiracy Theory on the Media Consumers" (2017). Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters. 259.