Research Project “Media Entertainment and Psychological Resilience”
Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)
The use of entertaining media content is deeply embedded in the daily routines of large parts of the media audience around the globe. For the majority of users, media entertainment fulfils functions and satisfies needs that go far beyond mundane passing of time or distraction. Entertainment media enable strong social bonds with protagonists, portray life and the human condition in all its complexities and showcase a never-ending selection of possible selves that provide important orientation. It is no surprise, then, that the last years have seen a constant increase in research that is interested in the potential benefits that entertaining media use provides for psychological health and well-being. A steadily growing number of studies provide empirical evidence of the positive short-term effects of media entertainment on psychological well-being, for example through mood management, stress coping, or meaningful and inspiring experiences.
What remains largely unclear, however, is whether media entertainment is also associated with more stable prospective gains in psychological health. To address this open question, the research project “Media Entertainment and Psychological Resilience”, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and led by Prof. Dr. Leonard Reinecke, aims at introducing a salutogenic perspective on the longitudinal effects of exposure to media entertainment. For this purpose, the project theoretically integrates recent two-factor models of entertainment experience with theoretical models of psychological resilience. The resulting theory synthesis suggests that exposure to hedonic and eudaimonic entertainment may provide both opportunities and risks for the acquisition, cultivation, and reinforcement of different resiliency factors, such as optimism and hope. These resiliency factors, in turn, are anticipated to act as mediators of potential prospective effects of media entertainment on well-being.
The project’s work program aims at two central goals. First, an extended theoretical model of the proposed connections between media entertainment and psychological resilience will be developed. Second, the reciprocal effects of entertaining media use, resiliency factors, and psychological health and well-being will be empirically tested in two longitudinal studies. Study 1 will provide a first test of these effects in a longitudinal survey study with three waves of data collection with a 6-month interval. The results of Study 1 will be complemented by Study 2 based on a longitudinal diary study in a cohort of university students in their first semester.
In combination, Study 1 and Study 2 will provide a detailed picture of the interplay of entertainment media use, resilience, and well-being over varying timeframes and analytical levels. Beyond their high societal relevance, we believe that the results of the project will make important contributions to the fields of entertainment and media effects research by extending our insights into the central mechanism connecting media entertainment and psychological health and well-being.
The expected starting date of the project is the first quarter of 2021. First results are expected in early 2022.
Reinecke, L., & Rieger, D. (in press). Media entertainment as a self-regulatory resource: The recovery and resilience in entertaining media use (R²EM) model. In P. Vorderer & C. Klimmt (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of entertainment theory. Oxford University Press. Preprint available at: https://psyarxiv.com/fyg49