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Thoughtfulness And Enjoyment As Responses To Moral Ambiguity In Fictional Characters
This dissertation examines the possibility that cognitive engagement with fictional movies, stemming from either individual motivations for movie viewing or from moral ambiguity as a characteristic of story protagonists, may result in increased thoughtfulness about moral themes, real world issues and movie authors. After responding an online survey to determine their motivations to watch movies, 154 college-aged participants saw clips edited from feature films in which protagonists were portrayed as either unambiguously bad, or morally ambiguous. Participants then rated their enjoyment of the movie, the characters, the movie authors, and suggested topics they would like to discuss with friends after watching each clip. Participants also rated their interest in reading more information about the movie and the movie authors. Participants seeking affective gratifications from movies (hedonic) were more likely than those seeking cognitive motivations (eudaimonic) to suggest moral issues as topics of conversation when characters were ambiguous. Participants seeking cognitive gratifications from movies (eudaimonic) were significantly more likely than hedonic viewers to propose movie authors and real world issues as topics of conversation, but, contrary to expectations, they were not more likely than others to connect these issues to the self. Viewers who had a dual orientation to movies (high in both hedonic and eudaimonic motivations) were more likely than other groups to judge movie authors as technically competent, and to like unambiguously bad movies and bad characters. Different patterns of thoughtfulness and enjoyment between hedonically and eudaimonically motivated groups may indicate that they process ambiguity through different cognitive schemas. Results regarding thoughtfulness about morality and real world issues are discussed in terms of movies‟ potential to foster individual and social change. The results regarding thoughts about authors are discussed in terms of their relevance to the theoretical debate on fiction as a sophisticated form of communicative exchange between authors and audiences.
Fiction; Moral Ambiguity; Narrative
Shapiro, Michael A
Hancock, Jeffrey T.; Lewenstein, Bruce Voss; Schrader, Dawn Ellen
Ph.D. of Communication
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis