The Development of Parasocial Interaction Relationships on YouTube


  • Kate Szer Kurtin California State University, Los Angeles
  • Nina O'Brien California State University, Los Angeles
  • Deya Roy Northeastern University, Boston MA
  • Linda Dam California State University, Dominguez Hills


Parasocial interaction, new media, YouTube, attraction


Continuing research on the development of parasocial relationships, the present study modernized a seminal study conducted by Rubin and McHugh (1987) investigating the relationship among communication, liking, and intimacy in forming a relationship with a television character.  This study applied this research to the YouTube video sharing platform to see if such a relationship was evident on social media.  Results of a structural equation model closely replicate the original findings, and confirmed that exposure to YouTube predicted both social and physical attraction.  This attraction was related to parasocial relationship formation, which then positively increased the relational importance. Overall, the results provide justification for extending the theoretical expectations of parasocial interaction to the YouTube context.

Author Biographies

Kate Szer Kurtin, California State University, Los Angeles

Communication Studies Department

Assistant Professor


Nina O'Brien, California State University, Los Angeles

Management and Communication Studies Department

Assistant Professor

Deya Roy, Northeastern University, Boston MA

Department of Communication Studies

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Linda Dam, California State University, Dominguez Hills

Department of Communications

Assistant Professor



Ault, S. (2014, Aug. 5). Survey: YouTube Stars More Popular Than Mainstream Celebs Among U.S. Teens. Variety. Accessed from

Auter, P. J. (1992). TV that talks back: An experimental validation of a parasocial interaction scale. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 36, 173-181.

Auter, P. J., & Palmgreen, P. (2000). Development and validation of a parasocial interaction measure: The audience-persona interaction scale. Communication Research Reports, 17(1), 79-89.

Baek, Y., M., Bae, Y., & Jang, H. (2013). Social and parasocial relationships on social network sites and their differential relationships with users’ psychological well-being. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 16(7), 512-517.

Barelds, D. P. H., & Dijkstra, P. (2009). Positive illusions about a partner’s physical attractiveness and relationship quality. Personal Relationships, 16, 263-283.

Bellantine, P. W. & Martin, B. A. S. (2005). Forming parasocial relationships in online communities. Advances in Consumer Research, 32, 197-201.

Berger, C. R., & Calabrese, R. J. (1975). Some explorations in initial interaction and beyond: Toward a developmental theory of interpersonal communication. Human Communication Research, 1, 99-112.

Bond, B. (2016). Following your “friend”: Social media and the strength of adolescents’ parasocial relationships with media personae. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 19(11), 656-660.

Bou-Franch, P., Lorenzo-Dus, N., & Garces-Conejos Blitvich, P. (2012). Social interaction in YouTuve test-based polylogues: A study of coherence. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 17, 501-521.

Buss, D. M. (1989). Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12, 1-49.
Chen, C-P. (2014). Forming digital self and parasocial relationships on YouTube. Journal of Consumer Culture, 1-23.

Collins, R. L., Elliott, M. N., Berry, S. H., Kanouse, D. E., & Hunter, S. B. (2003). Entertainment television as a healthy sex educator: The impact of condom-efficacy information in an episode of Friends. Pediatrics, 112(5), 1115-1121.

Dibble, J. L., Hartmann, T., & Rosaen, S. (2016). Parasocial interaction and parasocial relationship: Conceptual clarification and a critical assessment of measures. Human Communication Research, 42, 21-44.

Duran, R. L., & Kelly, L. (1988). The influence of communicative competence on perceived task, social, and physical attraction. Communication Quarterly, 36, 41-49.

Frederick, E. L., Choong, H. L., Clavio, G., & Walsh, P. (2012). Why we follow: An examination of parasocial interaction and fan motivations for following athlete archetypes on Twitter. International Journal of Sport Communication, 5, 481-502.

Frederick, E., Choong, H. L., Clavio, G., Pedersen, P. M., & Burch, L. M. (2014). Choosing between the one-way or two-way street: An exploration of relationship promotion by professional athletes on Twitter. Communication & Sport, 2(1), 80-99.

Grant, E., Guthrie, K. K., & Ball-Rokeach, S. J. (1991). Television shopping: A media system dependency perspective. Communication Research, 18, 773-798.

Hartley, J. (2008). YouTube, digital literacy and the growth of knowledge. In: Media, Communication and Humanity Conference 2008 at LSE, 21-23 September 2008, London. Accessed from

Hartmann, T., & Goldhorn, C. (2011). Horton and Wohl revisited: Exploring viewers’ experience of parasocial interaction. Journal of Communication, 61, 1104-1121.

Horton, D., & Wohl, R. (1956). Mass communication and parasocial interaction: Observations on intimacy at a distance. Psychiatry (19), 215-229.

Joinson, A. N. (2008). Looking at, looking up or keeping up with people?: Motives and use of Facebook. In Proceedings of the twenty-sixth annual SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 1027–1036). New York: ACM Press.

Jin, S.A.A., & Park, N. (2009). Parasocial interaction with my avatar: Effects of interdependent self-construal and the meaning role of self-presence in an avatar-based console game, Wii. CyberPsychology & Behavior 12(6), 723–727.

Kanazawa, S. (2002). Bowling with our imaginary friends. Evolution and Human Behavior, 23, 167–171.

Koenig, F., & Lessan, G. (1985). Viewers’ relations to television personalities. Psychological Reports, 57, 263-266.

Labrecque, L. I. (2014). Fostering consumer – Brand relationships in social media environments: The role of parasocial interaction. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 28, 134-148.

Lange, P. G. (2007). Publicly private and privately public: Social Networking on YouTube. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication. 13(1), 361-380.

Levinson, P. (2010). What’s newer than new new media. Global Media Journal: Persian Edition, 1-9.

Levy, M. R. (1979). Watching TV news as para-social interaction. Journal of Broadcasting, 23, 69-80.

Lo, A.S., Esser, M.J. & Gordon, K. E. (2010). YouTube: A gauge of public perception and awareness surrounding epilepsy. Epilepsy and Behavior, 17(4), 541-545.

McCrosky, J. C., & McCain, T. A. (1974). The measurement of interpersonal attraction. Speech Monographs, 41, 261-266.

Miller, K. (2012). Playing along: Digital games, YouTube, and virtual performance. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Paganini, C. (2013). Understanding YouTube. Uber die Faszination eines Mediums. Communicatio Socialis, 45(3/4), 507-509.

Phelps, C. (2011). Parasocial relationships and social media usage" Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from

Rheingold, H. (1993). The virtual community: Finding connection in a computerized world. Addison-Wesley Longman: Reading, MA.

Rubin, R. B., & McHugh, M.P. (1987). Development of parasocial interaction relationships. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 31(3), 279-292.

Rubin, A. M., Perse E. M., & Powell, R. A. (1987). Loneliness, parasocial interaction and local television news viewing. Human Communication Research, 12, 155-180.

Rubin, A. M., & Perse, E. M. (1987). Audience activity and soap opera involvement: A uses and effects investigation. Human Communication Research, 14, 246-268.

Rubin, A. M., & Step, M. M. (2000). Impact of motivation, attraction, and parasocial interaction on talk radio listening. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 44, 635-654.

Savage, M. E., & Spense, P. R. (2014). Will you listen? An examination of parasocial interaction and credibility in radio. Journal of Radio and Audio Media, 21(1), 3-19.

Seidman, G., & Miller, O. S. (2013). Effects of gender and physical attractiveness on visual attention to Facebook profiles. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networks, 16, 20-24.

Singhal, A., & Rogers, E. (2012). Entertainment-education: A communication strategy for social change. Routledge.

Slater, M. D. (2002). Entertainment-Education and Elaboration Likelihood: Understanding the Processing of Narrative Persuasion. Communication Theory, 12(2), 173-191.

Soukup, P.A. (2014). Looking at, with, and through YouTube. Communication Research Trends 33(3), 3-34.

Stever, G. S., & Lawson, K. (2013). Twitter as a way for celebrities to communicate with fans: Implications for the study of parasocial interaction. North American Journal of Psychology, 15(2), 339-354.

Strangelove, M. (2010). Watching YouTube: Extraordinary videos by ordinary people. Toronto, Buffalo, London: University of Toronto Press.

Tolson, A. (2010). A new authenticity? Communicative practices on YouTube. Critical Discourse Studies, 7(4), 277-289.

Tsiotsou, R. H. (2015). The role of social and parasocial relationships on social networking sites loyalty. Computers in Human Behavior, 48, 401-414.

Wattenhofer, M., Wattenhofer, R., & Zhu, Z. (2012). The YouTube Social Network. Sixth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM 2012). Accessed from

Williams, C. (2014, October 8). How young viewers are abandoning television. The Telegraph. Retrieved from

Yanover, D. (2007). La revolution digital en los medios. Chasqui (13901079), (97), 76-81.