The Psychology of Fame

On studying the experience of fame and the perception of fame with psychological theories

Fame as we know is public recognition or renown and one’s reputation in the world. Fame is associated with our needs for power, status, recognition and our needs of achievement. The need for fame could be of various types and would be triggered or associated with different motives of doing greater social good, reaching high levels of achievement in one’s career, leaving one’s work and ideas for posterity, being productive or making money.

Celebrities as who are in showbiz or entertainment may have varied motives for seeking fame and these would be related to providing genuine entertainment to people as doing social good or simply as urge to act, sing or prove their talents, or they could be motivated to make money. Entertainers and actors or musicians are motivated by fame as it relates to social recognition and social status and love needs. Politicians on the other hand have directly public rather than personal reasons for their fame and this is related to doing social good and serving the public as well as reaching a point in their career that would indicate higher achievements. Politicians or social leaders are motivated by fame as it relates to social power, reputation and power or status needs. Writers, philosophers, scientists and intellectuals are however primarily motivated by fame as a need to keep something for posterity, and to use their creativity, to do something exalted and go beyond human limitations of existence. Intellectuals, philosophers and sometimes scientists are motivated by fame as it relates to immortality and intellectual or creative leadership although they also have social recognition needs and social status, power and sometimes material needs. Although generally writers and intellectuals are less motivated by their basic needs of love and security and more motivated by needs of self realization and sublimation through creativity, intellectuals may at times crave love, recognition and even power. In case of geniuses and enlightened intellectuals like Einstein, Buddha or Newton, fame needs are primarily a need to establish intellectual superiority and leave knowledge and enlightenment for the future generations.

Freud has explained needs of recognition with sex drives as high sex drives would also mean a genuine striving towards achievement. Aggressive, competitive personalities or simply high sexual individuals would have stronger achievement, recognition, power needs and the genius according to Freud is constantly guided by a need to sublimate the sexual desires through creative output. Fame needs in the genius is thus only covert rather than overt and fame is seen as reward for other types of behaviour and more overt needs such as creative pursuit.

So the creative genius is one who is completely addicted and caught into the process of creativity and in many cases, is unable to lead a normal life and fame happens either in his lifetime or posthumously mainly as a reward. This reward in lifetime then reinforces further creative achievement and a positive cycle ensures lasting fame …