- Entertainment is emotion: The functional architecture of the entertainment experience
- Media Psychology
- Volume | Issue number
- 11 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR)
Current standard accounts of entertainment have regarded emotions as essential for the entertainment experience, but it has not been understood why emotions are so important for it. Recent views of entertainment as an adaptively significant activity propose that the distal cause of entertainment activity is an unconscious need for training useful capabilities, whereas the proximal cause is enjoyment of the activity for its own sake. This theoretical paper argues emotions provide the link between distal and proximal causes of engaging in entertainment. An architecture of the entertainment experience based on Steen and Owens' (2001) account of pretense play is proposed. The entertainment experience is an episode of emotions in response to an ongoing guided imagination. Two key factors are posited to shape the entertainment experience. First, interest is asserted as the "go-mechanism" of the entertainment experience. Second, the emotional reactions to the content of imagination are argued to lend coloring to the experience as well as to help train people's adaptive capacities. This architecture contributes to a solution of two problems for a theory of entertainment: the paradox of negative experiences and the perceived reality of entertainment content. In closing, a plea is made for studying the entertainee's appraisal of the entertainer's agency and qualities.
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