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Chapter 13 Reactions to Disturbing or Frightening Media Content 1 Frightening Stories As Entertainment 2 Throughout history, people have enjoyed hearing frightening stories. Frightening stories have also been used to help face personal fears. Dracula and Frankenstein War of the Worlds Friday the 13th Halloween X-Files Explanations for the Appeal of Fright Catharsis – 3 When viewers witness graphic violence on the screen or read about it in books, they purge or rid themselves of their own violent tendencies or inclinations. The transformations that monsters undergo provide cathartic relief for teens who are experiencing physical changes as they mature sexually. (Evans, 1984) Explanations for the Appeal of Fright 4 People are able to enjoy taboo experiences in a vicarious manner. (Wood, 1984) Rosenbaum suggested that people enjoy horror because it encourages a belief in a superior spiritual being capable of destroying evil forces. (1979) Measuring Fright Self-reporting measures – Measures of physiological responses – 5 Subjects are shown frightening or disturbing content, then asked to select words or phrases that best describe their reactions to the content. Fright reactions are measured through physiological responses such as a person’s heart rate. Fright Reactions in Children 6 Parents are usually unaware that their children experienced intense fright reactions. Parents underestimate the severity or significance of their children’s fright. Children enjoy being frightened. Long-Range Effects of Fright Reactions in Children 7 Sometimes children react with nightmares after viewing a disturbing program. Years after seeing a frightening movie, children may experience night “terrors” or have strange fantasies. Frightening media content threatens to impair psychological development. Dynamics of Fear Reactions to Media Content 8 Classical conditioning is the reason that fright reactions occur despite the fact that the viewer is not in danger and understands that. Classical Conditioning 9 Certain stimuli cause certain responses, and similar stimuli evoke similar, but less intense, responses Fear-Producing Stimuli Three types of media content that result in fear responses in real life: 1. 2. 3. 10 Dangers and injuries Distortions of natural forms Experience of endangerment and fear by others Dangers and Injuries 11 Natural disasters Violent confrontations Major wars Animal attacks Major accidents Distortions of Natural Forms Familiar sights or organisms are shown with a deformity, distortion, or mutilation – 12 Movie monsters Experience of Endangerment and Fear by Others Only category with indirect responses to scary content Two mechanisms that produce an indirect response of fear: 1. 2. 13 Empathy: identifying with the characters Vicarious involvement: fear of audiences in situations in which characters are unafraid because they are unaware of impending danger Emotional Response Factors 3 important factors that cause viewers to react emotionally: 1. 2. 3. 14 Realism of depiction Motivations of the viewer Other factors that affect a viewer’s emotionality Realism of Depiction 15 Stimulus generalization: when viewers witness highly realistic action their fright responses tend to be intensely emotional. Particular fears of individuals also affect the intensity of emotional responses evoked. Stimulus discrimination: the ability of audience members at various ages to be able to distinguish screen events from real-life occurrences. Motivations of the Viewer 16 Viewers who want to be entertained might purposely “forget” that the events are being staged in order to enhance enjoyment. Viewers who want to keep fright reactions to a minimum might continue to remind themselves that the actions are only mediated. Viewers who watch for informational purposes tend to pay more attention to the program and thus may become more aroused. Factors Affecting Viewers’ Emotional Responses Excitation transfer – 17 Audience members who are aroused before viewing an exciting or disturbing scene build on that arousal with new responses to film scenes and produce more intense emotional reactions. Foreshadowing of impending threats enhances the effects of a movie. Gender Differences Social pressures to conform to genderspecific behavior – – 18 Girls- scream at horror shows Boys- self-controlled mastery of the disturbing content Age Differences At different ages children experience different types of fear reactions: – 3-8 yrs – 9-12 yrs – threats of injury or destruction to self or loved ones 12+ 19 monsters, ghosts, supernatural creatures, the dark, animals, strange and fast-moving creatures personal injury, social and peer pressures and accompanying fears, & global fears Reason for Differences Cognitive development of children – 20 As children grow older, they respond more intensely to media depictions that are based more on reality than fantasy or the unrealistic. Strategies for Coping With Fear 21 Noncognitive strategies- do not require the viewer to process verbal information Cognitive strategies- require the activation of cognitive processes Types of Noncognitive Strategies 22 Visual desensitization Physical activity Types of Cognitive Strategies 23 Children are told to remember that a program is not real. Offer reassuring information about the minimal danger of any threats presented in the media. Information can be provided verbally or visually to calm children.