Imprinting. Defined in noun form as: Animal Behavior, Psychology. Rapid learning that occurs during a brief receptive period, typically soon after birth or hatching, and establishes a long-lasting behavioral response to a specific individual or object, as attachment to parent, offspring, or site.
Obviously that definition in particular refers to the phenomenon witnessed in the animal kingdom and particularly true in the case of ducks and other fowl. It's a well documented occurrence the phenomenon of birds, upon hatching attaching themselves to the first being they may encounter. They also have the propensity to follow the next best thing should something happen to their initial focus of attention.
Puppy and Duckling:
Fan behavior is not that unlike 'imprinting'. Similar to the state of mind termed, 'limerance', which has been defined by psychologist Dorothy Tennov as an involuntary cognitive and emotional state. In other words, something or someone inadverdently flips a switch in your mind and that gray matter in your head reaches back to the primal instinct to attach. The person or thing of interest may remind you of someone in your past, or simply trigger a pleasant emotional response.
Being a natural and common condition no regular Joe is immune. It does show a marked intensity for persons with a propensity toward Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. So if you are one who must check your locks on the doors several times before retiring, or once you find an interest immerse yourself as deeply as possible, you my friend are more easily sucked in - well, at least until the novelty wears off.
Apparently, when in this state of 'limerance' the person affected can experience intense romantic desire or emotional attachment toward their interest. Studies have shown actual brain chemistry affected by the perceptions felt or idealized by the individual. That chemical alteration often sufficient to propel 'imprinted' emotions by inciting pleasurable electrical charges in the gray matter upstairs, creating what can be best described as a virtual dopamine drip. Reality can sometimes be impaired by the pleasure center of your mind, as your brain trips along on that feel good rush. Your actual moods affected, emotions triggered such as intense joy or extreme despair depending on the circumstance. Certainly it can be fun and interesting while it lasts.
How 'limerance' is often most appropriately described - an 'emotional affair'. Limerance cited relationships are by nature, chaste, physically unconsumed. Factors involved in these relationships remaining as established may include loyalty to preexisting relationships, distance, impracticality such as a business or working relationship, or just the pure enjoyment of a fantasy.
Romantically described as an 'affair of the heart', this attachment can sometimes be maintained simply by the pleasure obtained by verbal, mental and assimilative contact. I am researching this topic in relation to my 'project' I've in the works. Too, every time I step into one of my Taylor Hicks friends' websites I'm reminded of this phenomena. In the case of being a fan of a celebrity as one example, the fantasies themselves often sufficient to continue the momentum for continuing with the interest.
Examples of how, in the case of fandom, fantasy often sufficient to propel the brain dopamine drip can be witnessed in examples featured on such black humor driven websites such as IdleTard.com. Fan fiction, a commonplace topic on IdleTard.com, brought out as entertainment, reveals the imaginative workings of fans desiring to create a stimulating virtual world. Stories insert the writers into the real life of their obsession, therefore pumping the dopamine and assisting in the sensation of pleasure, reinforcing continued interest.
Savvy entertainers understand some of this process, perhaps not on a direct awareness level but more in an intrinsic, intuitive manner. It goes along with the primordial need lurking in the wrinkles in our brain to imprint, acknowledge that imprinting and to feel connected. Savvy entertainer like John Mayer comes to mind, he seems quite good at keeping his fingers on the pulse of his fanbase. He's also open and communicative with his fans.
It doesn't take much to make fans feel connected and that a celebrity cares. One celeb I follow, on the new "hot thing" twitter, Eddie Izzard. Been a fan of his for years. Mr. Izzard posts dry comments on the weather from where ever he may be sometimes with an aside about thoughts of the moment. I've taken it upon myself to respond in kind, limiting my responses back normally only when he mentions the sun or it being sunny. I am aware of the psychological nuance, but it's like this "thing" and actually increases my enjoyment and perception of the man. Small things, people.
Thing is, we as human animals will always carry that 'baby duck' primal thinking pattern. What we need recognize is the reality as it truly exists and the ability to determine what context it appropriately fits within our lives. Now back to my project.
"My Hero" Paramore