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The psychology of fandom: Why we care so much about fictional characters

Illustration of a woman on a laptop computer wearing headphones with a microphone. Graphic images of different characters are displayed behind her.
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This hour is about the psychology of fandom. We look at how the mind of a fan operates. We talk with experts about the mental attachments and connections fans have with their favorite shows and fictional characters.

Plus, there are many reasons why one becomes a fan. We’ll talk about that, and how fandoms have evolved over time. Finally, a look at the types of emotions fans feel and how they express them in fanfiction and other forms of transformative fandom.


  • Lynn Zubernis: Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Professor at West Chester University, who has written 7 books based on her research on the psychology of fandom
  • Maya Phillips: Author of Nerd: Adventures in Fandom from This Universe to the Multiverse, and a critic at The New York Times
  • Jessica Hautsch: Lecturer in the Program of Writing and Rhetoric at Stony Brook University. Her forthcoming book is Mind, Body, and Emotion in the Reception and Creation Practices of Fan Communities

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

The Colin McEnroe Show is available as a podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe and never miss an episode!

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Melody Rivera, Colin McEnroe, and Cat Pastor contributed to this show.

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Lily is the senior producer for The Colin McEnroe Show. She first worked at Connecticut Public as an intern in 2014. She has previously worked for WBUR, KUNC and as a producer for the New England News Collaborative's weekly show Next. Lily can be reached at ltyson@ctpublic.org.