Why are many moviegoers attracted to bloodshed, gore and violence? It may be because they hope it will offer meaningful insights into some aspect of the human condition, according to a new study.
To explore this intriguing question, researchers Anne Bartsch of the University of Augsburg in Germany and Louise Mares of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States recruited 482 people ranging in age from 18 to 82 for the study.
The participants viewed film trailers featuring different levels of gore and meaningfulness, and rated their likelihood of watching the entire movie. They also gave their perceptions of the film, such as how gory, thought-provoking, or suspenseful they thought it might be.
Earlier studies suggest that people are not necessarily attracted to violence, but seem to be drawn to violent content because they anticipate other benefits, such as thrill and suspense, the researchers noted.
The new study found that “such hedonistic pleasures are only part of the story about why we willingly expose ourselves to scenes of bloodshed and aggression,” according to the researchers.
“Some types of violent portrayals seem to attract audiences because they promise to satisfy truth-seeking motivations by offering meaningful insights into some aspect of the human condition.”
“Perhaps depictions of violence that are perceived as meaningful, moving and thought-provoking can foster empathy with victims, admiration for acts of courage and moral beauty in the face of violence, or self-reflection with regard to violent impulses,” said Bartsch.
“Examining the prevalence of such prosocial responses and the conditions under which they occur offers a theoretically intriguing and socially valuable direction for further work.”
The study will be presented at the upcoming annual conference of the International Communication Association in London.