Examining Suspension of Disbelief, Perceived Realism, and Involvement in the Enjoyment of Documentary-Style Fictional Films

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  • 1 Florida State University jiqihao@gmail.com
  • 2 Florida State University araney@fsu.edu
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Abstract

Few empirical studies have examined the oft-mentioned psychological construct known as suspension of disbelief. This article examines suspension of disbelief as a function of perceived realism during the viewing of a genre that often blurs the lines between fiction and nonfiction: documentary-style films. To do so, an initial model of the relationships between suspension of disbelief, perceptions of realism, narrative involvement, and enjoyment was proposed and tested. Participants (n = 205) viewed one of two full-length documentary-style movies. Differences were observed in the way that both suspension of disbelief and perceptions of realism predicted emotional and cognitive aspects of involvement, with subsequent impact on enjoyment. An explanation for these differences is offered.

Contributor Notes

Qihao Ji, PhD, is a postdoctoral scholar at the Florida State University. His studies focuses on how people use and are impacted by mass media in both individual and societal levels. His current research looks on gaining an understanding of the new hybrid media entertainment experience—social TV.

Arthur A. Raney, PhD, is the James E. Kirk Professor of Communication in the School of Communication at Florida State University. His edited books include Media and Social Life (with Mary Beth Oliver; Routledge, 2014) and Handbook of Sports and Media (with Jennings Bryant; Routledge, 2006). He is a former associate editor of the Journal of Media Psychology; he also edited a special edition of the Journal of Communication on entertainment theory with Mary Beth Oliver in 2014.

Projections

The Journal for Movies and Mind

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