Does tragic drama have hedonic value?: the social aspects of hedonic motivations and media enjoyment

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University of Alabama Libraries

The hedonic principle, approaching pleasure and avoiding pain, governs human behaviors including media selection. However, the enjoyment of tragic drama poses a challenge to the hedonic principle. Two questions arise from this challenge: (1) why do people, particularly lonely individuals, select tragic content, and (2) why is the intensity of sadness positively associated with the degree of enjoyment of such negatively valenced content? Study 1 examined the first question, the selection of tragic drama. Study 2 investigated the second question, the enjoyment of tragic drama. In Study 1, compared to moderate-lonely individuals, high-lonely individuals selected more tragic drama of which the main theme is positive human relationship that can meet the need for relatedness. Low-lonely individuals did not vary from either high- or moderate-lonely individuals in selecting tragic drama. The treatment of social isolation had effects on the selection of tragic drama among moderate lonely individuals, but not among high- and low-lonely individuals. Moderate-lonely individuals in the inclusion condition watched more tragic drama than did individuals in the neutral condition. In Study 2, individuals were placed in two conditions: self- and other-focused motivations. After watching a sad film, other-focused individuals felt more other-centered sadness, experienced more enjoyment, and had better self-regulation than did self-focused individuals. Other-centered sadness correlated with self-centered sadness and enjoyment, whereas self-focused sadness did not correlate with enjoyment. The two studies suggest that other-focused sadness represents the hedonic value of tragic drama. Theoretical implications and limitations were discussed.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Mass Communications, Social psychology, Psychology, General