True Fame Endures, Study Finds

THURSDAY, March 28 (HealthDay News) -- Lasting fame rarely happens overnight, but once a person becomes truly famous they are likely to stay that way for a very long time, a new study finds.

Researchers analyzed the names mentioned in English-language newspapers over several decades, and found that people who become truly famous stay famous for decades. This is true in a wide range of fields, including sports, politics and entertainment, they found.

The annual turnover in the group of famous names was very low. Ninety-six percent of the people whose names were mentioned more than 100 times in the newspapers in a given year were already in the news at least three years before, according to the study published in the April issue of the journal American Sociological Review.

Although the reasons why a person becomes famous vary -- talent, resources or chance events -- once someone becomes a household name, they tend to stay that way, the study authors noted. Temporary fame is unusual and primarily involves people in the bottom rungs of the fame ladder, they explained.

In general, truly famous people follow career-like patterns of rising to fame, remaining well-known and then gradually fading from the scene, the researchers noted in a news release from the American Sociological Association.

"We can all think of examples of both types, fleeting and long-term fame. [Singer-songwriter] Leonard Cohen is still well known today, over 40 years after he first became famous," said study co-leader Arnout van de Rijt, an assistant professor in the sociology department at Stony Brook University.

"But Chesley ['Sully'] Sullenberger, the pilot who received instant fame after safely landing a disabled plane on the Hudson [River in New York City], is a name that will likely be forgotten pretty quickly," he said in the news release.

"What we have shown is that Leonard Cohen is the rule and Chesley Sullenberger the exception," van de Rijt added.

The researchers said their findings contradict most previous studies about the durability of fame.

More information

The American Psychological Association has more about fame.

SOURCE: American Sociological Association, news release, March 28, 2013

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