• Question: What causes teenage girls to be massively excited (fangirling) when they are at concerts or get noticed by a celebrity they like?

    Asked by bethanym1998 to Anna, Jane, Iain, Nick on 19 Mar 2014.
    • Photo: Nick Goldman

      Nick Goldman answered on 19 Mar 2014:

      I have absolutely no idea! Over to @annamiddleton and @janecharlesworth…

    • Photo: Jane Charlesworth

      Jane Charlesworth answered on 19 Mar 2014:

      Good question and I’m not sure of the answer. I do know that teenagers have a lot of changes going on in their brains and I think that causes them to get more excited about concerts or celebrities than older people. Our bodies start producing different hormones as they get older and when you’re a teenager your brain is rewiring itself in response to those. So teenagers tend to be excited or act impulsively. People also tend to pick up the behaviours of other people around them, so if they’re at a concert and other people get excited then the effect is amplified.

    • Photo: Anna Middleton

      Anna Middleton answered on 19 Mar 2014:

      Hi bethanym1998
      It’s definitely hormones! And hormones are very active in teenage girls – there are lots of biochemical things going on in the brain. I remember when I was a teenager crying one minute, laughing the next – my emotions were all over the place. I also fell in love and out of love every five minutes! It’s totally normal and settles down in time. But! make the most of it as life is never as exciting again!

    • Photo: Iain Moal

      Iain Moal answered on 19 Mar 2014:

      I think I know the answer to this, and it comes from evolutionary theory. The teenage years are when a person turns from being a child, unable to reproduce, into becoming an adult, capable of having children. In terms of evolution, having children is what drives us biologically, because individuals who reproduce most successfully end up passing on the factors that made them successful to their children. Now, there is a big difference between males and females when it comes to the number of children they can have, which is true of almost all mammals, including humans. Females can only have one child at a time, and human women can produce a maximum of about one child per year. This means that, from an evolutionary perspective, females should be very careful about who they are attracted to compared to males. They should choose the very best mate they can find, preferably a high-status individual that can give their offspring the best possible chance of survival. This is what we see all the time in nature, for instance in birds, where males compete with each other for female attention, or in other primates, where females prefer to have children with the alpha male. Males, on the other hand, can in principle father many children, because they can get many females pregnant in a relatively short amount of time. The upshot of all this is that females are more selective and more attracted to males with high status, while high status men have many children with lots of women and low-status males have few children, if any. Now, I am certainly NOT saying that this is a good way to live or how we should be, but it does seem to be the true of animal and humans, at least for most of human history. For instance in ancient tribal systems, the chief would have many wives, and even in fairly recent British history the king would have a wife as well and many concubines and mistresses, and lots of illegitimate children.

      So, that is all well and good, but how does it explain massively excited teenage girls, but not boys, at concerts? Well, I would say that for teenage girls, it is the influx of hormones that is preparing their body for the possibility of motherhood, combined with their relative immaturity and the new biological impulse to be attracted to the high-status singer or musician on stage. Now, this might sound like a bit of a ‘just so story’, but there other pieces of evidences I could bring to the table, such as different testicle sizes in different species, and the difference in size and muscle mass between males and females, but this reply is getting quite long already! In any case, this seems to me to be the most likely biological basis for fangirling.