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From the “reel” world to the “real” world: subjective experiences of violent fictional entertainment

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Fictional violence holds strong appeal for a wide audience. Given this appeal and the public’s concern about it, researchers have extensively investigated whether there is a direct effect of exposure to fictional violence on individuals’ aggressive behaviours. In the present research, we aimed to contribute to the comparatively smaller body of research concerned with factors that motivate individuals to engage with fictional violence. We interviewed 10 adults about their own subjective understanding of the reasons why they engage with fictional violence. We used thematic analysis to explore participants’ talk about their subjective experiences of their motivations. We interpret our findings to indicate that individuals make sense of their engagement with fictional violence as a means to understand the real world, to regulate arousal, and to experience a just world. We discuss the practical implications of these findings and directions for future research.
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Keywords: Meaning-making; motivation; social realities; violent entertainment

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Limerick, Department of Psychology, Limerick, Ireland

Publication date: July 3, 2017

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