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Comunicar Journal 36: Television and its New Expressions (Vol. 18 - 2011)

Emotions elicited by television violence


The effects of TV violence have been widely studied from an experimental perspective, which, to a certain extent, neglects the interaction between broadcaster and recipient. This study proposes a complementary approach, which takes into account viewers’ interpretation and construction of TV messages. Social dimensions influencing emotional experiences to TV violence will be identified and analyzed, as well as the way these emotions are construed in discourse, how they are linked to attitudes, ethical dimensions and courses of action. Eight focus groups (segmented by age, gender and educational level) were the basis of a discourse analysis that reconstructed the way audiences experience TV violence. Results show the importance of a first immediate emotional mobilisation, with references to complex emotions, and a second emotional articulation of experiences regarding repetition of scenes (type, classification and assessment of broadcasts), legitimacy (or lack thereof) of violent acts, and identification (or lack thereof) with main characters. In conclusion, the double impact (immediate and deferred) of emotions generates complex narratives that lead to a single course of action characterised by responsibility and guilt, which can only be taken into account by assuming the active role of viewer.