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The Effect of Suspense on Enjoyment Following a Desirable Outcome: The Mediating Role of Relief



This is the author's peer-reviewed final manuscript, as accepted by the publisher. The published article is copyrighted by Taylor & Francis and can be found at: endemic to many forms of media entertainment, suspense represents a paradox for enjoyment because it is experienced as an aversive state. Three studies are presented across two media contexts demonstrating how outcomes to suspenseful episodes affect viewers’ relief. Study 1 shows that relief is elicited only when a film’s outcome is unambiguously favorable and under such conditions is positively related to enjoyment. No such relationship was found given an ambiguous outcome. Study 1 provides evidence that relief is distinct from other affective responses (i.e., positive and negative affect, surprise) that may be present following suspense. Studies 2 and 3 use competitive contests as a context and provide evidence that relief mediates the effect of suspense on enjoyment. Study 2 shows that the previously positive effects of suspense and expectation disconfirmation on enjoyment are obviated in the presence of relief. Study 3 varies suspense in real time across 14 simulated races. Also manipulated are affective dispositions toward the racers and race outcome. The results reveal that relief mediates the effect of suspense on enjoyment, but only when the outcome favors a preferred competitor. The research enhances our understanding of the intertwining of cognition and affect in the enjoyment of suspense

Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1080/15213269.2011.596469
OAI identifier:
Provided by: ScholarsArchive@OSU

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