Chapter: Parasocial Theory: Concepts and Measures

Encyclopedia Chapter

by Gayle S. Stever, March 2017

The International Encyclopedia of Media Effects

Parasocial interaction (PSI) describes nonreciprocated audience interactions with media personae. These interactions are, in many ways, like face-to-face interactions with the caveat that the response normally expected from a social partner is missing. Parasocial theory describes and attempts to explain imagined social relationships and interactions with people who are distant from us and who do not reciprocate individual communication or interest. Early articles on parasocial theory discussed PSI and parasocial relationships (PSRs) without making much distinction between the terms, but more recent studies have focused on the differences, with PSI being the illusion of interaction during viewing and PSRs being the ongoing perceived connection the audience members experience with the media personae over a longer period of time. Parasocial attachment occurs when the viewer seeks regular proximity to the mediated experience in order to experience an affective bond with a selected media persona.