Theories of Enjoyment
Arthur A. Raney
Florida State University
The appeal and enjoyment of media entertainment have been the subject of much research interest in recent years (see Zillmann & Vorderer, 2000). "Why do we like what we like?" is a question that both content providers and social scientists seek to answer. A leading explanation of enjoyment focuses on the affective dispositions that viewers form toward the characters in those presentations; simply put, enjoyment of some types of entertainment is predicted by what happens with and to the characters that we like and/or dislike. Collectively these explanations are known as disposition theory. Although no single collection of statements called "disposition theory" exists to explain and predict enjoyment of all entertainment fare, disposition-based approaches to several types of entertainment have been forwarded.
The purpose of this chapter is to summarize the various theoretical assertions pertaining to the enjoyment of entertainment that are collectively referred to as disposition theory. To accomplish this, we trace the historical development of the theory through the work of Dolf Zillmann and his colleagues in the areas of humor appreciation, drama appreciation, and sports spectatorship. We then analyze the similarities in the application of the theory across these entertainment types, as well as the dissimilarities. The chapter concludes with suggestions for future research and theory development in the area of entertainment studies.
Finding pleasure in the misfortunes of others is a curious but seemingly universal human phenomenon. Who hasn't experienced a bit of amusement
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Publication information: Book title: Communication and Emotion: Essays in Honor of Dolf Zillmann. Contributors: Jennings Bryant - Editor, David Roskos-Ewoldsen - Editor, Joanne Cantor - Editor. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of publication: Mahwah, NJ. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 61.
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