Participants and procedure
The participants were recruited from a popular Hungarian news website (444.hu). Participants were invited to complete an online questionnaire focusing on attitudes towards celebrities and cognitive/mental status. Participation was voluntary and anonymity was provided for the respondents. Informed consent was obtained from all participants. The research was conducted with the approval of the research team’s university and was carried out following the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki.
A total of 1763 Hungarian adults (66.42% male, Mage = 37.22 years, SD = 11.38, age ranged from 18 to 79 years) completed the online survey. The majority of participants reported having a college degree or higher (n = 1244; 70.56%), while another considerable proportion of them reported having a secondary school certification (n = 479; 28.19%), and only 1.25% (n = 22) completed eight or less classes at primary school. Nearly one-third of participants reported having 301,000–600,000 HUF (about 1005–2003 USD) as a monthly household income after taxes (n = 554; 31.42%), one-quarter reported having 101,000–300,000 HUF (about 337–1002 USD) (n = 451; 25.58%), and only a small minority reported having less than 100,000 HUF (about 334 USD) (n = 60; 3.40%). Another considerable proportion of participants reported having 601,000–1,000,000 HUF (about 2006–3338 USD) as a monthly household income after taxes (n = 314; 17.81%), while only a small proportion of participants reported having more than 1,000,000 HUF (about 3338 USD) monthly.
Celebrity Attitude Scale (CAS). The 23-item version of the CAS has good psychometric properties [14, 27,28,29,30]. The response format for the CAS is a 5-point Likert scale with “strongly disagree” = 1 and “strongly agree” = 5. High scores suggest a strong attraction to one’s favorite celebrity.
The CAS consists of three subscales. Entertainment-Social (ES) is reflected in agreement with items like “My friends and I like to discuss what my favorite celebrity has done,” A second level of celebrity worship is characterized by more Intense-Personal (IP) feelings, defined by items like “I have frequent thoughts about my celebrity, even when I don’t want to.” The third level, labeled Borderline-Pathological (BP), is shown in items like: “If I were lucky enough to meet my favorite celebrity, and he/she asked me to do something illegal as a favor I would probably do it.” Across several studies total scale Cronbach alphas ranged from 0.84 to 0.94 . Cronbach alpha in the present study was 0.91 for the total scale, 0.84 for the Entertainment–Social subscale, 0.83 for the Intense–Personal subscale, and 0.55 for the Borderline–Pathological subscale.
The Hungarian version of the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES-HU; [31, 32]) consists of 10 items, examples of which are “On the whole, I am satisfied with myself,” and “At times I think I am no good at all” (reverse scored). “Strongly Disagree” is equal to 1, and “Strongly Agree” is equal to 4. High scores suggest a person who has high self-esteem. The RSES has been widely accepted in the scientific community . Cronbach alpha in the present study was 0.90 for the total scale.
Current Family Income is a self-reported estimated measure of the amount of monthly household income after taxes for the family. The question and response categories were derived from the National Survey on Addiction Problems in Hungary (OLAAP) . For the data analysis, this variable was linearized by calculating the middle point of the amounts, and was standardized. Therefore, z-scores were used in further data analysis.
Perceived Relative Material Wealth is assessed using the question and response options derived from national surveys in Hungary, such as the National Survey on Addiction Problems in Hungary (OLAAP)  and the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) . Participants are asked to indicate the extent to which they perceive their family’s current material wealth compared to others. Participants are also asked to rate their material wealth when the participant was a child. The response format is a seven-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (highly among the best) to 7 (among the worst). Therefore, lower scores indicate higher perceived material wealth.
Vocabulary Test (VOCAB) consists of 30 stimulus words randomly selected from an online quiz prepared by Encyclopedia Britannica . Each stimulus word is followed by four possible one-word definitions, of which one is correct. Examples of stimulus words and their correct definitions that we used are: vain-conceited, amorphous-shapeless, and elucidate-explain. We pilot tested VOCAB with a sample of 35 American university students, and based on the results (mean correct = 12.54, SD = 4.70) we substituted three new words (futile, condone, jargon) for the three most frequently missed words on the pilot version, and retested with a larger and better educated sample. The result was a mean of 23.10 and an SD of 6.11. We replicated the pilot test in a Hungarian sample of adults (N = 76; 77.6% female, Mage = 26.5 years, SD = 5.5). Participants were highly educated (63.2% had college degree or higher, 34.2% secondary school certificate, and only 2.6% completed eight classes or less). Items were translated and back-translated following the protocol by . The mean of correct answers was 27.96 (SD = 1.75). Six items were answered correctly by all of the participants. Participants spent an average of 163.76 s (about 2 min and 44 s) completing the test (5.46 s/item). The time limit was set to 4 min. In order to decrease the ceiling effect, the six items that could be answered correctly by all of the participants were deleted. Therefore, 24 items remained for which an average completion time was estimated and determined at 131 s. Based on this, a new time constraint (2 min) was set for the final data collection. The purpose of the Vocabulary test was to serve as a brief measure of crystallized intelligence. Previous studies have used a vocabulary test as a brief substitute for a battery of crystallized measures [38, 39] because vocabulary scores correlate highly with several other crystallized measures, but minimally with measures of fluid intelligence .
The Short Digit Symbol Test (SDST) is a 30-item subtest modeled after the Digit Symbol Test found on the Multidimensional Aptitude Battery-Form L . The SDST is similar in that it contains nine symbols, each corresponding to digits one through nine, and five possible answers, labeled “A” through “E.” Another similarity is that the initial items are easy and gradually become more difficult. For example, Item one on both subtests has only one pairing of a symbol with a digit, items 2, and 3 pair two symbols with two digits, and items 4, 5, 6, and 7 pair three symbols with three digits. Yet another similarity is that the correct answer is evenly spread across all five possible answers. For the more difficult items, such as item 30, which has eight pairs of symbols with eight digits on both subtests, the correct answer choice is deliberately made more difficult by making one or more incorrect answers similar to the correct one. Dissimilarities include the fact that the Digit Symbol Test contains 35 items, compared to 30 on the SDST. The Digit Symbol Test should be slightly more difficult, because items 31–35 all contain nine symbols, whereas the SDST never contains more than eight. To adjust for this difference, time allotted for the SDST is six minutes as compared to seven minutes allotted for the Digit Symbol Test. Also, the symbols correspond to different numbers. For example, the + symbol corresponds to 6 on the Digit Symbol Test but the + symbol corresponds to 7 on the SDST. The object of both tests is to get as many items correct as possible within the allotted time. To do so, it requires the test-taker to remember which symbol corresponds to which digit. Constantly having to look at the box of symbols and digits at the top of each page is time-consuming, making it more difficult to finish within the allotted time. The task is made more difficult by presenting one or more incorrect answers on each of the items that are similar to the correct answer. A pilot test was conducted with the participation of 36 Hungarian adults (72.2% female, Mage = 27.3 years, SD = 7.9). Participants were again highly educated (50.0% had college degree or higher, 47.2% secondary school certificate, and 2.8% completed eight classes or less). The average of correct answers was 18.4 (SD = 5.8) using a time constraint of 6 min. Provided that the range of correct answers (from 7 to 30) was wide, the time limit of 6 min was set for the final data collection.
The measures described above were assembled in several different orders to reduce the likelihood of a systematic order effect. Statistical analysis was carried out using SPSS version 20 (IBM SPSS Inc., Chicago, Illinois). First, zero-order correlations were computed to explore the associations between cognitive ability test scores, and celebrity worship scores (Hypothesis 1), as well as several variables expected to be related to either cognitive ability or celebrity worship. Second, partial correlation was performed to determine if the cognitive test scores would be negatively related to total celebrity worship scores (Hypothesis 2) even after controlling for gender, age, educational level, self-esteem, current family income, current material wealth, and perceived material wealth as a child. The VOCAB and the SDST test scores were combined in a composite z-score for this analysis. In the following step, the contribution of variables to cognitive performance was explored using multiple linear regressions (RQ1). In order to investigate the predictive power of each variable, univariate linear regressions were also conducted in which the independent variables were entered separately.