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Does Misery Love Company? Exploring the Therapeutic Effects of TV Viewing on Regretted Experiences

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Testing hypotheses derived from regret and mood management theories, this research explores how regretted experiences impact interest in viewing experience-relevant TV programming and such viewing’s effects on program enjoyment and felt regret. One hundred and forty-four participants, half of whom had been unfaithful in romantic relationships, were asked first to rate their interest in viewing a series of storylines and then to provide their reactions to 1 of 2 versions of a TV program depicting cheating behavior. Largely consistent with hypotheses, results indicated that those who had both cheated and felt regret about their behavior were more likely than others to want to watch experience-related storylines, were no less likely to enjoy watching such programming, and particularly preferred viewing the program version in which the main character rationalized, rather than expressed regret for, her behavior. Both program versions, however, reduced regret equally. A survey of 206 city residents also offered evidence consistent with predictions based on regret theory. Overall, this research speaks to the value of integrating theories of emotion with media theory to enhance the latter’s predictive ability.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Communication, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721 2: Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Publication date: December 1, 2006

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