Exploring the Therapeutic Effects of Entertainment Media: Toward the "Prescription" of Media-Based Positive Psychology Interventions
- Degree Grantor:
- University of California, Santa Barbara.Communication
- Degree Supervisor:
- Nabi Robin L
- Place of Publication:
- [Santa Barbara, Calif.]
- University of California, Santa Barbara
- Creation Date:
- Issued Date:
Chronic psychological stress has deleterious effects on health and wellness; yet, positive emotions can combat this negative influence. Researchers have begun to design and test positive psychology interventions aimed at improving health and well- being and incorporate the promotion of positive emotions into stress reduction programs. Yet, entertainment media is largely absent from intervention design despite its capacity to evoke powerful emotional experiences. This dissertation builds on media effects and emotion literatures to address three key questions concerning the viability, design, and effectiveness of media-based positive psychology interventions. First, can specific types of media content generate discrete positive emotions? Second, what is the influence of these discrete positive emotional experiences on affective, cognitive, and behavioral outcomes? Third, what are the processes by these effects occur?
In a four-wave panel experiment, undergraduates (N = 248) were randomly assigned into one of three media treatment groups, where they viewed one online video clip a day for a total of five consecutive days, or a control group, wherein they viewed no media. Those in the treatment groups either viewed a set of comedy clips, a set of clips portraying stories of underdog characters struggling to achieve goals, or a set of clips featuring nature content. Psychological states, coping strategies, physical and psychological well-being, and goals were measured 1-7 days before, 1-3 days following, and 10-12 days after the intervention. Additionally, measures of stress, emotion, motivation, and reactions to the characters were assessed after each clip.
Results demonstrate that: 1) comedy generated amusement, underdog videos were evocative of hope, and nature maintained a calm emotional state comparable to baseline emotion; 2) all media conditions reduced psychological stress, negative emotion, and symptoms of illness, and increased life satisfaction; 3) comedy was most facilitative of personal resource development over time; 4) underdog videos generated the strongest motivation, endorsement of approach coping strategies, and effort exerted toward goals; and 5) emotion jumpstarted goal pursuit, whereas over time, cognitive factors maintained goal-oriented effort. Discussion is offered in terms of theoretical and practical implications, limitations, and areas for future research.
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