Why is it that humans can develop an emotional attachment to people they've never met?

Hello Everyone,

The context in which I’m asking the question is movie and television stars. In my case I have and have always had an attachment to the Andy Griffith Show. I watched it as a young boy and still watch it every time its on the tube. After almost fifty years if watching the show one can almost feel ad if they “know” the characters. When Don Knots and Andy Griffith passed I actually teared up and even today I feel a bit of sadness when I see the show or read about the deceased characters of Mayberry.

So, for me its TAGS, for others it’s whatever, the point being that I don’t understand how I or anyone can feel a sense of loss over someone they have never known personally. Oh, I’m not talking about feeling bad that someone you didn’t know was killed or being upset over a tragedy like 9/11. I mean feeling a sense of loss as if a loved one had died.

According to Cicero, it’s because we are drawn to virtue.

I don’t know but it is funny because that was the theme of an actual episode of the Andy Griffith Show. The episode Stranger in Town is about a man that shows up in Mayberry and knows all about everyone even though no one has seen him before (and he has never been there before either). It turns out he learned all about Mayberry and its citizens just by reading copies of the local paper every week. It becomes his home-town in his mind and he truly believes he knows everyone so he decides to make it real and moves to Mayberry and causes a big commotion among the locals because of his unexplained familiarity with everyone.

Not just people…but fictional people. Even fictional cartoon dogs.

And real dogs. I cried when I found out that a dog belonging to an internet columnist/blogger I’ve read since the mid-90s died. I’ve never met the columnist or the dog, but following their lives through his blog entries over the years kinda made me feel like I knew them both, if just a bit.

I think it’s just part of our capacity for abstract thought - the same thing that enables us to plan ahead, or think about events that aren’t happening right now, or objects that are not physically present - we can create imaginary ‘what ifs’ in our heads.

I think it’s common to “fall in love” with an actor or celebrity for the same reasons we do so with real people we know - interest turns to attraction turns to stronger feelings, reinforced by what we want to see in that person. Logic is a feeble barrier to growing an emotional attachment to someone you find appealing, even if they are so remote from you that they may as well be fictional.

In the case of media figures, you can be selective about what information you get. When the celebrity is giving to your favorite charity, you can DVR it and replay the recording over and over. When the celebrity’s ex-wife accuses him of drunken, abusive behavior, you can just change channels.

It’s easy to fall in love with someone when you only see them on their good days.

And we only tend to see actors on their very best days, simulated or not. We’ve likely all gotten involved with someone who was a wonderful person… until the time came when you spent several uninterrupted days with them and they could no longer make a perfect presentation the whole clock round.

Unless a famous person does something truly egregious, we never see their bad side. Not even morning breath.

Aren’t ALL people just mental constructs that exist within our own brain? We perceive information and record it. Then we process that information into one or more models of that person’s behavior, using the model to make guesses about their motivations and intentions. As we receive new information about that person, we eliminate incompatible models and update the existing ones.

This mental construct is entirely internal, and doesn’t require a real person - it just requires that we invest the mental effort and that we receive some kind of feedback to keep us updating the model. We can do it just as easily with real people as imaginary ones. We don’t even need people to do this with - pets, cars, computers, the weather, volcanoes, imaginary supernatural entities, etc.

Other humans? That’s easy. We anthropomorphize inanimate objects. Or feel empathy for a scared triangle. (warning: pop up movie)

I believe that it’s because technology simulates the real life. You can watch a movie with your favorite actor, talk to a japanese girl via skype etc. It’s just like we are actually there with that person. Except there would be no physical contact, but you’d still be able to admire that person and wish the best for him/her

When I listen to country music, I develop enough attachment to cry when I hear lyrics sung about fictitious people. Attachments are to ideas, which are often but not always elicited by actual people, even if never met. It’s our maudlin nature.

Bill Simmons? Just wait til his dad passes.

Is lust emotional? Why not.

This was shortly before the show started to appear in color, wasn’t it?

Stranger