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Parasocial relationships on YouTube reduce prejudice towards mental health issues


Intergroup contact has long been established as a way to reduce prejudice among society, but in-person interventions can be resource intensive and limited in reach. Parasocial relationships (PSRs) might navigate these problems by reaching large audiences with minimal resources and have been shown to help reduce prejudice in an extended version of contact theory. However, previous studies have shown inconsistent success. We assessed whether parasocial interventions reduce prejudice towards people with mental health issues by first creating a new PSR with a YouTube creator disclosing their experiences with borderline personality disorder. Our intervention successfully reduced explicit prejudice and intergroup anxiety. We corroborated these effects through causal analyses, where lower prejudice levels were mediated by the strength of parasocial bond. Preliminary findings suggest that this lower prejudice is sustained over time. Our results support the parasocial contact hypothesis and provide an organic method to passively reduce prejudice on a large scale.

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