Bieber fever and other contagions reveal some things about fame, money, and us | Science News

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Bieber fever and other contagions reveal some things about fame, money, and us

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12:09pm, June 24, 2011

Teenage girls aren’t the only ones with Justin Bieber fever.

In April a sneaker autographed by the pop star sold for $1,425 on eBay. The buyer? A 52-year-old man from Ontario. That might seem like a lot for a used shoe, but it’s small change compared with the more than $40,000 brought in by Bieber’s auctioned hair clippings. That’s right, hair. As in, all mammals have it.

So why do people pay extreme sums for possessions, or even pieces, of celebrities? Well, one explanation lies in the very word fever.

It turns out that a driving force behind desiring something that belonged to someone famous is the concept of contagion. Rather than catching chicken pox or the flu, contagion in the anthropological sense refers to a sort of magical thinking that someone’s essence is transferable through an object that he or she has touched. It’s like cooties, but in a good way. Especially contagious are items the medical community might

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