What attracts people to violent movies?

Why are audiences attracted to bloodshed, gore and violence? A recent study from researchers at the University of Augsburg, Germany and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that people are more likely to watch movies with gory scenes of violence if they felt there was meaning in confronting violent aspects of real life.

Anne Bartsch, University of Augsburg, Germany and Louise Mares, University of Wisconsin-Madison, will present their findings at the 63rd Annual Conference of the International Communication Association. Their study examined whether these serious, contemplative, and truth-seeking motivations for exposure to violent portrayals are more than just an intellectual pleasure. They invited a large binational sample from Germany and the US (total of 482 participants), ranging in age from 18-82, and with varying levels of education. Participants viewed film trailers featuring different levels of gore and meaningfulness, and rated their likelihood of watching the full movie. They also indicated their perceptions of the film (how gory, meaningful, thought-provoking, suspenseful, etc.).

Earlier studies have suggested that audiences are not necessarily attracted to per se, but seem to be drawn to because they anticipate other benefits, such as thrill and suspense.

These findings suggest that such hedonistic pleasures are only part of the story about why we willingly expose ourselves to scenes of bloodshed and aggression. Some types of violent portrayals seem to attract audiences because they promise to satisfy truth-seeking motivations by offering meaningful insights into some aspect of the human condition.

"Perhaps depictions of violence that are perceived as meaningful, moving and thought-provoking can foster empathy with victims, admiration for acts of courage and moral beauty in the face of violence, or self-reflection with regard to violent ," said Bartsch. "Examining the prevalence of such prosocial responses and the conditions under which they occur offers a theoretically intriguing and socially valuable direction for further work."

More information: "The Role of Perceived Meaningfulness in Audience Attraction to Violent Media Content: Experimental Results From Germany and the US." To be presented at the 63rd Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, June 17-21, 2013, London, England.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

UQ study confirms dangers of violent video games

Oct 31, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- New research by Dr. Brock Bastian from UQ's School of Psychology has found evidence that playing violent video games leads players to see themselves, and their opponents, as lacking in core human qualities ...

Recommended for you

Child burn effects far reaching for parents

2 hours ago

Parents of burn victims experience significant psychological distress for at least three months after the incident and may compromise the post-operative recovery of their child, WA research has found.

Internet use may cut retirees' depression

2 hours ago

Spending time online has the potential to ward off depression among retirees, particularly among those who live alone, according to research published online in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences an ...

Classifying cognitive styles across disciplines

2 hours ago

Educators have tried to boost learning by focusing on differences in learning styles. Management consultants tout the impact that different decision-making styles have on productivity. Various fields have ...

User comments