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Impact of a Celebrity

Title: The Impact of a Celebrity.
Name(s): Sanchez, Anacarla, author
Communication and Information
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Issuance: serial
Date Issued: 2015
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: American actress, filmmaker, and humanitarian Angelina Jolie wrote a piece for the New York Times titled "My Medical Choice" to raise breast cancer awareness and share her story about her decision to undergo a double mastectomy. Various studies have shown that celebrities have an impact on the decisions that most of the population make in regards to their health, lifestyle, etc. In fact, research has even shown that kids are more likely to choose foods endorsed by celebrities, even when the foods are healthy. This is because we try to emulate their lifestyle. Celebrities can then in turn have a tremendous positive impact in influencing human behavior. According to Steven Hoffman, assistant professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at McMaster University's DeGroote School of Medicine, celebrities can play an important role in educating the public about health issues. Hoffman said there are "deeply rooted biological, psychological and social forces" that make celebrity health advice influential. These forces include psychological effects such as classical conditioning, self-conception, cognitive dissonance, the halo effect, and herd behavior. For example, under the halo effect, the brain confuses success in one field with success in all fields (including medical advocacy). Due to classical conditioning, the positive responses people tend to have towards a celebrity transfer to whatever that celebrity is pushing. Because of self-conception, people assume the positive traits they have assigned to that celebrity, such as attractiveness or hipness, also apply to that celebrity's cause. Herd behavior allows celebrities to trigger a person's natural tendency to act as others act in similar situations. And due to cognitive dissonance, people "unconsciously rationalize following celebrity medical advice to reduce the psychological discomfort that may otherwise result from holding incompatible views." In Jolie's case, her article got a lot of people talking about preventative mastectomies. A lead researcher named Dina Borzekowski, also a professor of public health at the University of Maryland says the celebrities are good at raising awareness. And adds that what Jolie did was "extremely courageous." Her revelation that she had a double mastectomy after genetic testing showed she had an elevated risk of breast cancer also resulted in a big jump in public testing for the BRCA mutation. When Jolie discovered she had the faulty BRBA1 gene which put her at an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer, she took serious measures. According to the American Cancer Society, defects in that gene and another, called BRBA2, substantially raise a woman's lifetime risks of breast and ovarian cancers – to a roughly 60 percent chance of developing breast cancer, and a 15 to 40 percent risk of ovarian cancers. By comparison, the average U.S. woman has a 12 percent chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer over her lifetime, and only a 1.4 percent risk of ovarian cancer. Experts stress that most breast cancers are not inherited, and gene mutations – mainly in the BRCA genes – account for only about 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers. It is important that the public knows that genetic testing is only recommended for women at high risk. Women at high risk either have a personal history or a strong personal history of breast or ovarian cancers, and the survey found that interest in getting the gene test was somewhat higher among women who felt they had a family history of breast cancer versus those who did not have such histories. The genetic mutation that Jolie has accounts for only 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancer cases. However, even though her situation is rare, there is no doubt that it brought awareness. If more women are aware that their genes could affect their risk of breast cancer, their more likely to ask their doctors about it. In fact, a survey of nearly 1,100 U.S. women, conducted in mid-July, found that almost all women (86 percent) had heard of Jolie's double mastectomy. And 5 percent of those women said they would seek medical advice on having a preventative mastectomy or ovary removal because of Jolie's decision. That may seem like a small percentage, but it translates to about 6 million women nationwide. The purpose of this study was to examine her article and read the comments below that were written as a response to her story. By reading the comments that were made, it would be possible to tell whether or not Jolie's revelation made a positive health impact or any impact at all. The research consisted of examining other relevant sources that also investigated the impact of celebrities on public health issues to see if the investigation was accurate and matched up.
Identifier: FSU_migr_undergradsymposium2015-0028 (IID)
Keywords: breast cancer, celebrity
Subject(s): Communication
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU
Is Part of Series: Undergraduate Research Symposium 2015.

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Sanchez, A. (2015). The Impact of a Celebrity. Retrieved from