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Qihao Ji and Arthur A. Raney

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.