Parasocial Romance: A Social Exchange Perspective


  • Aimee Adam
  • Brittany Sizemore


Parasocial relationships are one-sided relationships that people hold with media figures. Although it has been previously demonstrated that people often feel strong friendships with people that they have never met, parasocial romantic attachments have not been well-studied. In the current study, we examined reasons why people form parasocial romances from a social exchange perspective by surveying participants on perceived costs and benefits of both real-life and parasocial romantic relationships (PSROMs), and on the strength of their PSROMs. We found that participants who reported stronger PSROMs also reported greater perceived benefits (relative to costs) of PSROMs, and that these benefits are surprisingly similar to those received from real-life relationships (RLRs). The results suggest that parasocial relationships are formed for similar reasons as real-life relationships, but that there are some unique costs associated with PSROMs. This research helps to explain why people form romantic attachments with media characters.