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Session Overview
Session 02: Attention, Shots, and the Impact of Sexual Explicitness
Thursday, 07/Sep/2017:
9:00am - 10:00am

Session Chair: Tamas Nagy
Location: Room CIV 165

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Cuteness rules – Selective attention to baby schema traits in media figures

Benjamin P. Lange1, Sarah K. C. Holtfrerich2

1Universität Würzburg, Germany; 2Universität Hamburg, Germany

Baby schema traits (BSTs; Lorenz, 1943) trigger nurturing responses in humans, suppress aggressive behavior, create sympathy, and cause prioritised attention.

Such responses can also be triggered by non-human stimuli (e.g., baby animals; e.g., Kringelbach et al., 2016; Lange & Schwab, 2017 for review). BSTs are evident in many media figures (MFs) too, for instance in comics / cartoons or video games (Gould, 1979; Lange & Schwab, 2016). In many cases, those figures serve as so-called supernormal stimuli, that is, they are characterized by over-emphasized BSTs. We had thus the objective to test whether humans react towards BSTs in MFs the same way they would towards such traits in humans and whether there is a stronger reaction, if the stimulus is supernormal (attention bias towards very baby-like compared to less baby-like MFs).

Research suggests that women, on average, react more strongly towards BSTs (e.g., Hahn et al., 2013; Lange & Schwab, 2017 for review). Hence, we wanted to furthermore investigate, whether there are sex differences in that women have a higher attention bias towards BSTs—not only in humans but in MFs too.

Selective attention was implicitly measured by the dot-probe paradigm (400 ms) using Presentation (v 18.3). Black-and-white pictures standardized in size depicting more or less baby schema-like MFs (e.g., the old not very baby schema-like vs. the modern very baby schema-like Mickey Mouse; Gould, 1979) were used as the stimuli in this visual-probe task.

With respect to our first research question, it was assumed that in the congruent condition (i.e., the dot is presented on the same side as the more baby schema-like stimulus has been before), the reaction times to tell on which side the dot appeared would be lower (main effect of condition / stimulus type). Similarly, it was assumed, regarding our second research question, that women would have lower reaction times in the congruent condition (interaction effect between condition and participant sex). We had a student sample of 101 participants (67 female, mean age: 22.0 yrs). Before starting the dot-probe task, which took about 10 minutes, we measured the participants’ 2nd and 4th digits to calculate their 2D:4D ratio that is known to correlate with prenatal testosterone.

We found that reaction times were lower in the congruent condition than in the incongruent condition (main effect of condition: F(1,99) = 9.434, p = .003, ηp2 = .087). There was, however, no interaction effect between condition and sex (F < 1). So, only our first assumption was supported by the data. However, two more interesting findings occurred: Male participants, on average, had by trend lower reaction times in both conditions (F(1,98) = 2.321, p = .131, ηp2 = .023), which is in line with other research (Jain et al., 2015). Moreover, there was an 2D:4D effect: Ratios indicative of high prenatal testosterone were associated with lower reaction times (F(1,98) = 4.948, p = .028, ηp2 = .048). This was, however, driven by female participants (F(1,65) = 5.683, p = .020, ηp2 = .080; males: F < 1).

Bring it Closer: The effect of shot scale on approach motivation, narrative engagement, and enjoyment in film viewers.

Katalin Bálint1, Tamás Nagy2, Brendan Rooney3, Ágoston Török2, Márton Czető2, Dániel Pálma2, Dávid Ottlik2, Ádám Divák2

1University of Augsburg, Germany; 2Synetiq Ltd.; 3Universtiy College Dublin

Background: Previous research indicates that formal features of a movie – such as cut rate, music, color, or camera distance – influence emotional responses in the audience, regardless of – or in addition to – the content. Shot-scale, defined as the apparent distance of characters from the camera, is one of the most effective visual devices in regulating the relative size of characters’ faces, the relative proportion of the human figure to the background, and arranging film content according to its saliency. Empirical evidence has demonstrated the importance of shot-scale in self-reported arousal, prosocial behavior, and character liking. These results are in line with Lang’s model on the Limited Capacity for Mediated Message Processing.

Objectives: This study extends the investigation of close up shots to electrophysiological correlates, such as EEG frontal asymmetry that is an indicator of approach-avoidance motivation, emotional impact, narrative engagement and enjoyment, as well as the moderating role of viewers’ trait empathy. It was predicted that higher level of close-up shots increase approach motivation, emotional impact, narrative engagement, and enjoyment, and this effect is moderated by viewers’ trait empathy.

Method: This study employed three versions of an award-winning short animation movie about a father-daughter relationship (~8 minutes), that contained zero, five, or ten close-up shots of the protagonist. Other parts of the movies were identical across conditions. After filling in an empathy questionnaire (IRI by Davis), participants (N = 102, 35% male) watched one of the three movies at random, while 14-channel EEG signal was recorded. After watching the movie, participants’ emotions, narrative engagement (NE scale by Busselle and Bilandzic) and enjoyment were assessed. EEG frontal asymmetry (left vs. right frontal activation) averages were calculated for the 2 second intervals during the close-up shots, and the previous two seconds.

Results: Preliminary results elucidated complex interaction effects of shot scale and trait empathy on audiences’ responses to the narrative. Frequency of close-ups increased narrative engagement, emotional impact, and enjoyment. Importantly, these main effects were more pronounced in case of viewers with high level of trait empathy. More empathetic participants enjoyed all movie versions more, but inserting 10 close-up shots made the movie more enjoyable for even those with lower empathy. More empathetic participants also experienced a larger variability in approach motivation as a function of close-up shots.

Conclusion: Shot scale can be an effective tool to increase emotional intensity, approach motivation, and enjoyment in viewers with higher level of empathy. Findings have implications for creative design, and contribute to the study of visual features that increase effectiveness of stories.

Sex in Movies: An Experimental Study on the Effects of Sexual Explicitness in Non-Pornographic Contexts

Caroline Marker, Isa Garbisch, Nico Huisel

University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany

This study aimed to clarify the impact of the consumption of movies with sexually explicit content on sexual satisfaction, sexual openness, and positive affect. Prior research on sexual explicitness has almost exclusively focused on pornography and on negative effects. Some studies showed negative effects of pornography consumption on health, aggressiveness, and quality of relationships. Peter and Valkenburg (2009) found that the consumption of sexually explicit internet-content lead to a decrease of sexual satisfaction. Nevertheless, there are also some positive effects of sexual explicitness and pornography. The second variable of interest, sexual openness, has been associated with pornography use (Emmers-Sommer, Hertlein, & Kennedy, 2013). In terms of emotions, reports have shown an increased negative affect, but also a positive correlation between sexual arousal and positive affect (Koukounas & McCabe, 2001; Nobre et al., 2004; ter Kuile, Both & van Uden, 2010). Is it possible to generalize effects of pornography research to sexual explicitness in non-pornographic movies? In an experimental study, the effects of a sexually explicit scene in two Arthouse movies were investigated. Dependent variables were positive affect, sexual satisfaction, and sexual openness. One-hundred-and-seven women and 61 men watched a short film clip (approx. 20 minutes) and were randomly assigned to one of two movies in one of two conditions. In the experimental condition, the film clip included a two-minute explicit sex scene, which was missing in the control condition. After watching the short film, the participants reported on a questionnaire measuring the dependent variables, socio-demographic information, and some control variables (e.g., the last sexual contact). The two Arthouse movies chosen for this study were representative for their genre (erotic drama). Results showed a significant effect of the sex scene on the positive affect of the participants. Participants who watched the movies including the sex scene reported more positive affect. No direct effects were found for sexual openness and sexual satisfaction. In an exploratory analysis, we found a significant difference between men and women regarding sexual openness and sexual satisfaction. Men in the experimental condition were significantly more sexual open and less sexual satisfied than women. For positive affect, there was no significant gender difference, but the data showed a tendency for men in the experimental condition to report more positive affect than women in the same condition. This study highlights the potential effects of sexual explicitness outside of pornography. Implications of the results for sexually explicit depictions in movies are discussed.

Examining the influence of porn genre and trait aggressiveness on harmful effects of online pornography

Anja Schieferbein, Kevin Koban, Peter Ohler

Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany

According to rather conservative estimates, approximately ten percent of the worldwide Internet traffic is generated by online pornography, thus, making Porn sites a significant part of the Internet alongside with global players such as Google or Facebook (Ogas & Gaddam, 2011). With regard to media effects, previous studies have indicated considerable relations between the consumption of online pornography and hostile sexual attitudes as well as sexual aggression outside of the computer screen (e.g., Foubert, Brosi, & Bannon, 2011; Hald, Malamuth, & Yuen, 2010). A recent meta-analysis by Wright and colleagues (2016), which includes 22 studies and over 20.000 participants, provided further support for these findings by revealing a small-to-moderate positive relationship between pornography use and sexual aggression. Therefore, frequent users of Internet porn are more likely to commit sexually aggressive behaviors against others. However, Wright and colleagues (2016), as well as other researchers, highlighted a substantial heterogeneity in those studies’ effects suggesting the influence of hidden moderators (Kingston, Malamuth, Fedoroff, & Marshall, 2009; Malamuth, Hald, & Koss, 2011). Following this reasoning, the present study intends to examine two potential moderators on the relationship between individuals’ porn consumption and their rape myth acceptance as an indicator of aggressive sexual attitudes: pornography genre and dispositional aggressiveness.

Being part of an ongoing longitudinal research project, this abstract presents some results of the first wave of participants. The study sample consists of a total of 718 mainly student participants (age M = 24.38, SD = 5.31; range: 18–69 years), including 472 women and 241 men as well as five individuals who left their biological sex unspecified. When asked about their viewing experience, 211 participants (29.4%) stated that they have never watched pornography, whereas 507 participants (70.6%) at least occasionally watch porn clips. We measured participants’ frequency of consuming different porn genres was measured via three single items, their trait aggressiveness via the 27-item Buss Perry Aggression Questionnaire (BPSQ; s = .66–.80), and rape myth acceptance using the nine-item Acceptance of Modern Myths about Sexual Aggression Scale (AMMSA; = .85).

To analyze possible moderation effects, we calculated several hierarchical linear regression analyses including interaction terms of porn genre and trait aggressiveness. Results showed that neither main effects nor interaction effects for both consumption of softcore and BDSM pornography, even though we noticed a near-significant pattern suggesting that users who had never watched BDSM porn have a higher rape myth acceptance than users who watch this genre once in a while (standardized Beta = -.07; t(686) = -1.93, p = .054) after controlling for differences in trait aggressiveness. Regarding hardcore porn, we found a significant main effect comparing occasional and frequent viewers (standardized Beta = .11; t(354) = 2.00, p = .05) which is fully mediated after controlling for trait aggressiveness (standardized Beta = .05; t(351) = 1.04, p = .30). More importantly, data revealed an interaction effect demonstrating statistically positive relations between participants’ physical aggression and rape myth acceptance for both non-viewers and heavy viewers of hardcore porn, while occasional viewers show no such effect.

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