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Study Reveals Why People Are Attracted to Gory Movies

Update Date: Mar 28, 2013 10:26 AM EDT

A new study may reveal why moviegoers are attracted to bloodshed, gore and violence. Researchers at the University of Augsburg in Germany and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that people were more likely to watch gruesome films if they felt there was meaning in confronting violent aspect of real life.

The latest study, which will be presented at the 63rd Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, wanted to see whether these motivations for exposure to violent portrayals are more than just an intellectual pleasure. 

The study included 481 participants aged 18 to 82 who had varying levels of education. 

Participants were asked to view film trailers featuring different levels of gore and meaningfulness.  After each trailer participants rated how likely they were to watch the full movie. Participants also expressed what they thought of the film in terms of how gory, meaningful, thought provoking and suspenseful it was based on the trailer.

Previous studies found that people are not attracted to violence in movies, but are actually attracted to the thrill and suspense that comes with watching violent content.

Researchers said the latest findings suggest that pleasure-seeking is only part of the story about why people willingly expose themselves to scenes of bloodshed and aggressions. The findings reveal that some types of violent movies 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," researcher Anne Bartsch of the University of Augsburg said in a statement.

"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," she concluded.

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