Susan Kay Romoser Heil, Ph.D.

Advisor: Dr. Leon Rappoport

Dissertation Title

Does humor mediate the effects of film violence?: Affective consequences of viewing the violent action comedy

Dissertation Abstract

This project defines a new genre of violent movies, the Violent Action Comedy, which combines graphic violence traditionally found in violent films with humor that is related to the graphic violence. Although much research has been done on the link between media violence and heightened aggressive responses, the current project examines the affective consequences of viewing Violent Action Comedy films to see if the same type of increased aggressive, and general affective, arousal is induced by the new genre as occurs with the viewing of purely violent films. Additionally, characteristics associated with the enjoyment and appreciation of Violent Action Comedy humor were explored.

Using an experimental design, participants viewed two clips that had been pre-tested as representative of either Violent Action Comedy or non-humorous Violence. The hypothesized impact of film type on state aggression was explored via multivariate analysis of variance. There was a significant main effect of film genre on a linear combination of mood change scales. A stepdown analysis indicated significant film genre differences for changes in state aggression, anxiety and sadness. Although each of these negative moods increased after film viewing for both film groups, the increases for Violent Action Comedy subjects were significantly lower than the increases experienced by Violence viewers, confirming hypothesized results.

With regard to hypothesized characteristics of people who enjoy the type of humor in Violent Action Comedies, hierarchical multiple regression analysis was used to examine the effects of Locus of Control, Sense of Humor, Trait Aggression, and Prior Exposure to media violence on the dependent variable of film enjoyment. With all variables in the model, R = .86. Thus, the personality and prior exposure variables accounted for 75% of the variance in Film Enjoyment. All blocks of variables except the Sense of Humor block made significant contributions to R 2 .

Together, these results provide support for differential affective consequences of viewing violent stimuli that do and do not incorporate humor, and support the notion that the presence of humor in Violent Action Comedies serves to reduce the tension typically induced by exposure to graphic violence.

Education

Ph.D., Psychology, Kansas State University, 2001