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Journal of the Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences

Document Type

Article

Abstract

Parasocial relationships are perceived friendships with media figures that are not reciprocated (Horton and Wohl 1956). Although parasocial relationships can be romantic (Adam and Sizemore 2013), it is unclear whether parasocial romances are perceived as infidelity. In this study, we compared men’s and women’s perceptions of offline, online, and parasocial extradyadic behavior. The sample included 188 undergraduate college students, who were administered one of three versions of a two-sentence story prompt about a couple in which one partner is involved in either an offline, online, or parasocial relationship. The participants were asked to write a brief story based on the prompt. Stories were content-analyzed for whether the behavior was seen as betrayal, reasons why it was or was not seen as such, and the impact on the couple’s relationship. The majority of participants in the parasocial condition identified the parasocial relationship as an act of betrayal, although this percentage was smaller compared to the offline and online conditions. The majority of participants in this condition also described the “victim” as being hurt or upset by the behavior. These results indicate that even parasocial extradyadic relationships may have negative consequences on real-life relationships.

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