Why David Bowie was so loved: The science of nonconformity

“When you read accounts of people who remember seeing David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust for the first time, they talk about this sort of awakening,” Mazaris told Live Science. The rocker’s bisexual alien alter ego portrayed androgyny and nonheterosexual sexuality as beautiful and worth celebrating, she said.

“I think it’s about being able to imagine possibilities for yourself and your identity,” she said.

Representation appears to be important for helping people feel they fit in. For example, research on women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields finds that female role models help to keep women from underperforming. For example, one 2002 study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that when a woman administered a math test to female students, the women were less likely to struggle with the test because of situational factors (like anxiety caused by the knowledge of the stereotype that women are bad at math).

A 2011 study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found that the role-model effect is about more than just gender. Individual information, such as whether a role model fits “nerdy” stereotypes, was more important than the gender of the role model in encouraging women to believe in their ability to succeed in computer science.