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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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September 2nd, 2013
03:36 PM ET

The brain science behind One Direction's legions of fans

The Beatles, The Monkees, New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys/'N Sync – every generation has a much too adorable set of collectible young men who seem to turn young ladies of the decade into a screaming puddle of tears.

Enter One Direction. Young? Check. Handsome? Check. Singers of catchy songs? Check. Cue the screaming!

Their new film "One Direction: This Is Us" topped the box office this weekend, bring in $17 million. They have nearly 14.7 million Twitter followers. Their first hit single "What Makes You Beautiful" has been viewed more than 400 million times on YouTube.

Sure they are young heartthrobs who can sing, but plenty of acts fit that bill. Turns out what makes boy bands like One Direction so beloved is more about brains than beauty.

Not the boy bands' brains, but those of the teens that adore them.

"Developmentally at this time teenagers are surging with emotion," said Rachel Busman, clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. "They're starting to explore their identity, and what they find meaning in, and so this is a very key time for them to develop attachments to celebrities and other media figures."

Some fans get more attached than others of course. One gutsy girl loved One Direction's Zayn so much, she tried to put a ring on him.

But she isn't crazy, she may have actually thought he would say yes.

"Promoters are directly speaking to these kids, and really drawing them in, and I think that adolescents and younger kids don't understand that fully," said Busman.

Especially in this internet-fueled day and age.

"They think these artists are speaking directly to them, and they really do that through things like Twitter feeds, and Instagram, and that's why we really need parents to really sit with kids, and help them understand the reality of what's actually happening and unfolding," said Busman.

It is not just that teens are vulnerable because their hormones are raging. If that were the case, teen boys would be going crazy at Taylor Swift concerts, too. Online movie ticket vendor Fandango noted 98% of advance tickets for "This Is Us" were bought by girls.

"I don't know that there would be the same acceptability in school and among peers if boys were standing outside of hotels and waiting for these artists to come out. And the girls often text each other, and feed off each others' interests in a way that's very different than how boys interact," said Busman.

So, if fans flock to the theater for One Direction this weekend, they should feel no shame. Either their brain, or their child's, has forced them into it.

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