Love makes you real: Favorite television characters are perceived as "real" in a social facilitation paradigm

Wendi L Gardner, Megan L. Knowles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Borrowing from the media, communication, and psychological literatures on parasocial, or one-sided, relationships to media figures, the current investigation examined the processes underlying the anthropomorphism of favorite television characters. Two studies tested the hypothesis that individuals' affection for television characters predicts their perceptions of realness. In Study One, participants reported their perceptions of and feelings toward either their favorite television character or an equally familiar, nonfavorite character, and results provided initial support for our hypothesis. In Study Two, participants were passively exposed to an image of either their favorite television characters or a control, nonfavorite character while completing well-learned and novel motor tasks. In line with classic social facilitation findings, participants in the "presence of" their favorite character (versus the nonfavorite character) demonstrated facilitation on the well-learned task and inhibition on the novel task. These studies suggest that feelings for the character may play an important role in encouraging the anthropomorphism of television characters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)156-168
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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