The Effect of Affective States on Selective Exposure to Televised Entertainment Fare

Dolf Zillmann, Richard T. Hezel, Norman J. Medoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

84 Scopus citations


Subjects were placed into a negative, neutral, or positive affective state and then, ostensibly in a waiting period, provided with an opportunity to watch television. They were free to choose among situation comedy, game show, action drama, and not watching. Time of selective exposure was measured unobtrusively. Compared to other affect‐conditions, subjects in the condition of negative affect avoided comedy. Time of exposure in this condition was significantly below that in the condition of neutral affect. The tendency to avoid comedy was stable over the 10‐minute test period. Compared to other affect conditions, subjects in the condition of positive affect preferred action drama. Time of exposure in this condition was significantly above that in the condition of neutral affect. Subjects experiencing negative affect watched less action drama over time; in contrast, subjects experiencing positive affect watched more action drama, but less game show. A subsequent investigation showed that hostile comedy tended to be avoided by provoked subjects specifically. Merely frustrated subjects were found to actually prefer such comedy. Furthermore, neither provoked nor frustrated subjects avoided nonhostile comedy. The findings were considered consistent with the proposal that persons select exposure to those materials that hold the greatest promise of providing prompt relief from negative affective experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-339
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1980
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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