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Why we're obsessed with the royal family, according to a psychologist

It's not just you.
Why we're obsessed with the royal family, according to one expert
Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

The United States — as we know it now — hasn’t been a part of the British empire for hundreds of years, but that doesn’t stop us from obsessing over the royal family as if they’re our own.

After all, even the most casual of media watchers knows that the Duchess of Cambridge — Kate Middleton — just gave birth to her third child, a son, a week ago. The royal couple just celebrated their seventh wedding anniversary on April 29, notable because, as we all know, Prince William’s younger brother, Harry, is set to wed actress Meghan Markle on May 19.

We all know about it, but why do we care?

"We live in a media-saturated time," Dr. Frank Farley, a professor and psychologist at Temple University and a former American Psychological Association president, told Time. "In a sense, there’s no escape. Some people will become interested in the details [of the royal family]."

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He says our obsession with celebrity culture is known as "parasocial behavior" where we create one-sided relationships where we care about another person without ever having a meaningful interaction.

"We’re social animals," says "With famous media figures, people we learn about, celebrities, et cetera, we often live some of our lives through them."

Parasocial behavior doesn’t just involve the royal family; it also means becoming emotionally invested in sports teams, television shows, reality stars and even Instagram personalities.

Add that these people have the type of wealth many of us aspire to and you’ve got a recipe for obsession.

"We all have dreams of wealth and fame and happiness and style and social influence and so on, which starts early with fairy tales and the way we raise our kids," Farley added. "That stays with us, to some extent, through our lives. Royals and other people, like Hollywood figures and Kardashian types, keep that phenomenon alive."

Can we be too obsessed with celebrities?

We associated "obsessed" celebrity fans with stalkers — and some do get to that level — but the majority fall into the other categories the Celebrity Attitude Scale. The scale, based on a study published in 2002 in the British Journal of Psychology, sorted fans into different degrees of celebrity fandom. The most common are people who watch celebrities for entertainment. "Most of the people that we call celebrity worshippers never get beyond this," study author Lynn McCutcheon told Time.

fans of the royal family

The second degree of celebrity fanaticism is a little more serious, with the fan viewing the celebrity as a soul mate. The third is the most dangerous and happens when the fan goes to greater lengths to get access to their favorite celebrities through stalking.

Why are we obsessed with the royal family, then?

The royal family’s mere celebrity status — and constant media coverage — is enough to create a royal obsession, but "the very fact that [the monarchy] has continued [in Britain] is a curiosity for us: That’s the royal family we got rid of, in a sense," Farley said.

Just enjoy it for what it is, even if you don’t care what they named the new royal baby.

"You can view it as entertainment, an interesting story we’ve got going here," added Farley.