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 violence per se, but seem to be drawn to violent content 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.