Heartbreaking. Gut-wrenching. Devastating. The Motivational Effect of Compassion on Securing Narrative Engagement
Authors: Carlos González Velázquez
Original Publication Site & Date: Media Psychology Symposium, July 2020. [virtual symposium]
Abstract: Why do we enjoy consuming sad stories? Although much progress has been made, none of the existing explanations to the “sadness paradox,” deriving gratification from the consumption of sad content can satisfy all of its occurrences. The paradox remains for stories lacking gratifying resolutions, meaning, or sufficient instances of prosocial behavior to explain the pleasure associated with feelings of being moved. Extending on previous findings, I propose that compassion incentivizes narrative engagement and that the gratification derived from the consumption of sad content follows an overall positive valuation of the somatic changes felt while engaged with a story.
Why do we enjoy consuming sad stories?
I suggest that enjoyment should be understood as emerging from both appetitive and consummatory phases of reward, and thus that enjoyment can occur in the absence of consummatory pleasure. Findings from the self-report questionnaires suggest a strong and positive correlation between compassion, engagement, being moved, and gratification. The physiological measures suggest a negative correlation between levels of salivary Interleukin 18 and gratification that agrees with models of social motivation predicting that hypoactivity of the µ-opioid receptors results in a craving for social contact. Nevertheless, the low number of valid cases demand a cautious interpretation of this association.
Carlos González Velázquez
Fielding Graduate University
#sadnessparadox, #mediapsy2020, #compassion, #narrativeengagement, #enjoyment, #gratification, #beingmoved