By now, you likely know that Prince William and Kate Middleton had their third child, Louis, who joins older siblings George and Charlotte. You likely also know that Prince Harry is set to marry American actor Meghan Markle next month. Perhaps you even know that the royal wedding will be held at St. George’s Chapel, and will include a lemon- and elderflower-flavored cake and a teenage cellist.
In short: The royals have infiltrated our collective consciousness. The question is, why?
“We’re social animals,” says Dr. Frank Farley, a professor and psychologist at Temple University and a former American Psychological Association president. “With famous media figures, people we learn about, celebrities, et cetera, we often live some of our lives through them.”
Farley says this falls under the label of “parasocial behavior,” which can create a one-sided relationship in which someone becomes attached to a person without actually interacting with them in any meaningful way. Parasocial behavior could include becoming emotionally invested in your favorite television show or sports team — or, say, in the lives and dramas of the royal family.
Celebrities, in particular, may capture this sort of attention because they illustrate the things we’ve been taught to covet, however subconsciously. “We all have dreams of wealth and fame and happiness and style and social influence and so on, which starts early with fairy tales and the way we raise our kids,” Farley says, adding that it plays into our deep-seated attraction to heroism. “That stays with us, to some extent, through our lives. Royals and other people, like Hollywood figures and Kardashian types, keep that phenomenon alive.”
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