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date: 04 December 2020

Media Entertainment and Emotionslocked

  • Ed S. TanEd S. TanDepartment of Communication, University of Amsterdam; Department of Media, Cognition, and Communication, University of Copenhagen

Summary

Entertainment is fun, and fun is an emotion. What fun is as an emotion, and how it depends on features of entertainment messages and on other emotions, needs to be understood if we want to explain the appeal of entertainment. Entertainment messages such as movies, stories, drama, games, and sports spectacles can move us in a great variety of ways. But characteristic for the use of all genres is a remarkable, intense focus on interacting with the entertainment message and the virtual world it stages. Gamers in action or listeners of radio drama tend to persist in using the message, apparently blind and deaf to any distraction. Persistence is emotion driven. Intrinsic pleasure in what is a playful activity drives this passionate persistence. Enjoyment, interest, or excitement and absorption are the emotions that make entertainees go for more fun in the ongoing use of an entertainment message. In the use of an entertainment message, these go-emotions complement emotional responses to what happens in the world staged by the message. Horror incites fear and disgust, while serious drama elicits sadness and bittersweet feelings. In our conception, go and complementary emotions are immediate effects of the use of entertainment content: I feel excitement and apprehension now, while I am watching this thriller.

Models of distal effects of media entertainment, such as ones on mood, behavior, beliefs, attitudes, and preferences require a proper understanding of immediate emotional responses to concrete messages. The effects of entertainment are only incidental; the emphasis is on immediate emotional experiences in the use of entertainment messages. Immediate emotional responses can be understood and predicted from an analysis of entertainment messages.

Entertainment comes in messages with a characteristic temporal structure. Entertainment emotions develop across the presentation time of the message. Their development can be captured and understood in models of a message’s emotion structure. The emotion structure of a message represents the dynamics of go and complementary emotions across consecutive events, such as story episodes or drama scenes, and within these.

Research into the uses and effects of media entertainment has a long tradition. Immediate emotional responses to mediated entertainment messages have been theorized and researched since the seminal work of Dolf Zillmann in the 1970s. The state of the art in research on the entertainment emotions needs to be discussed—starting with a general model of these, and elaborating it for selected entertainment genres.

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