Exploring the Paradox of the Enjoyment of Sad Films



    1. Mary Beth Oliver is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
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  • Appreciation is extended to Wayne E. Hensley and Edd H. Sewell for their helpful comments and suggestions. Correspondence concerning this manuscript should be sent to Mary Beth Oliver, Department of Communication Studies, 11 Agnew Hall, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061–0311.


The concept of met emotions (appraisals of emotional reactions) was used in three studies designed to explore the enjoyment of sad films and to develop a scale that would reflect such gratifications. Study 1 showed that sad reactions in response to this type of entertainment were positively related to enjoyment and that females reported stronger reactions both in terms of enjoyment and in terms of sad responses than males. The Sad-Film Scale (SFS) developed in Study 1 was positively associated with measures of empathy, femininity, and positive appraisals of sad emotions. Study 2 found evidence of the scale's reliability and validity. Study 3 demonstrated predictive validity of the SFS in terms of the enjoyment of a specific sad film and in terms of favorable ratings of met emotions reported directly after viewing a sad film.