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Affective Disposition Theories

Arthur A. Raney


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Media scholars and consumers alike ponder the question “why do we enjoy the stories we enjoy?” Affective disposition theory is one of the leading explanations of the enjoyment process. The theory – more accurately, set of theories – conceptualizes enjoyment of media content as a product of a viewer's emotional affiliations with characters and the storyline outcomes associated with those characters. Although the theory does not seek to predict whether an individual will like or dislike a specific character or story, it provides keen insight into the process through which people enjoy these things (→  emotion ; Enjoyment/Entertainment Seeking ). As suggested above, afmfective disposition theory is a title given to a set of propositions about the media enjoyment process that, throughout the entertainment literature, is also referred to simply as “disposition theory,” “disposition theories,” and “disposition-based theories” (→  Entertainment, Effects of ). The first such theory was developed to describe how people appreciate jokes involving the belittling of a person or group. The principles of the resulting “disposition theory of humor” ( Zillmann & Cantor 1972 ) were subsequently applied to the appreciation of drama and sports, yielding the “disposition theory of drama” ( Zillmann & Cantor 1976 ), and the “disposition theory of sports spectatorship” ( Zillmann et al. 1989 ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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