If Doctors Say So: Desire to Spend Thousands on Eric Clapton’s Guitars Is a Scientific Condition

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Guitars belonging to British music icon Eric Clapton are displayed at the Bonhams auction house in New York March 4, 2011. More than 70 guitars belonging to Clapton will go on the auction block in New York to raise money for his drug and alcohol treatment center in the Caribbean.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Apparently, the Bubonic Plague explains why someone is willing to pay $959,500 for a famous guitarist’s instrument.

Yale psychologists found that this strong yearning of collectors for celebrity possessions stems from the 14th century Black Death belief that good and bad are physically contagious properties. This conviction in the transmittable celebrity power explains why a collector paid $959,500 for Eric Clapton’s guitar, Blackie, in 2004.

(More on TIME.com: See how much Justin Bieber’s hair sold for in an online auction)

People desire physical contact with celebrities thought their possessions. George Clooney’s sweater loses value after its been washed. But not all its value.

Similarly, a replica of Clooney’s sweater would not be valueless. This explains why a Blackie replica, complete with cigarette burns and belt buckle marks, fetched $42,700 in auction Wednesday.

While the imitation is not valued equally to the original, the Yale team’s principle of similarity explains that similar possessions have similar powers. “Cultural practices such as burning voodoo dolls to harm one’s enemies are consistent with a belief in the law of similarity,” psychologist Dr. George E. Newman told the New York Times. “An identical Clapton guitar replica with all of the dents and scratches may serve as such a close proxy to Clapton’s original guitar that it is in some way confused for the real thing.”

NewsFeed hopes for that much money collectors are inspired to play guitar a bit better, too.

(More on TIME.com: See the top 10 most expensive auction items.)