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parasocial interaction


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(PSI, para-social interaction)

A term coined by Horton and Wohl in 1956 to refer to a kind of psychological relationship experienced by members of an audience in their mediated encounters with certain performers in the mass media, particularly on television. Regular viewers come to feel that they know familiar television personalities almost as friends. Parasocial relationships psychologically resemble those of face-to-face interaction but they are of course mediated and one-sided. On the rare occasions when we encounter celebrities in the street we may smile involuntarily in recognition that we know them but we are obliged to realize that they do not know us. However, onscreen, skilled television presenters foster the illusion of intimacy, a good example in the UK being Paul O'Grady. We are encouraged to feel that what is being said is being directed to us personally. This is assisted by direct address to the camera. Chat-show hosts tend to adopt the conversational style and gestures of an informal face-to-face gathering. The set is often designed to bear some resemblance to a living-room. Skilled hosts blur the line between themselves and the audience—both the studio audience and the audience at home. Guests on the show are treated as a group of close friends. Horton and Wohl stress that parasocial interaction is not like a process of identification. One-off viewers may choose to be detached, analytical, and even cynical, but regular viewers are more likely to adopt the proffered role.

http://www.participations.org/volume%203/issue%201/3_01_hortonwohl.htm Parasocial interaction: Horton and Wohl


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