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How content and co-viewers elicit emotional discomfort in moviegoing experiences: Where does the discomfort come from and how is it handled?

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Abstract

Although watching movies is typically enjoyable, they also can elicit discomfort. The present studies investigated what makes some moviegoing experiences emotionally uncomfortable. Using autobiographical memory (Study 1) and scenarios/vignettes methodology (Study 2), young adults remembered watching a movie that had made them uncomfortable or responded to scenarios about watching a particular type of movie with particular co-viewers (e.g. violent movie with one's spouse). Movies eliciting discomfort were most often dramas (39%) or comedies (26%). Discomfort most often arose from content, particularly fairly explicit sex or violence, and secondarily from the presence of co-viewers. Often the two interacted, for example, being uncomfortable watching explicit sex with one's parents. In terms of dealing with the discomfort, women were overall more direct and men more avoidant. A sizable minority was glad they had seen the film, in spite of the discomfort, and was open to seeing it again. Arguing from converging evidence, these different methodologies produced consistent results. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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