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Cognitive Processing, Disengagement, and Empathy

The emotions that we experience as media consumers have complementary and interrelated cognitive (thinking) and affective (feeling) dimensions. This means that emotional reactions to media texts and characters involve cognitive processing and comprehension as well as affective dispositions toward them. Ultimately, the extent to which we enjoy media content depends on the emotional responses that we develop toward media characters.

This entry focuses on how one particular emotional response—empathy—influences our media enjoyment. It also outlines how our moral evaluations of characters’ actions and motives affect the extent to which we enjoy media content. Finally, it explores how moral disengagement—that is, the ways in which we selectively disengage our internal moral standards—enables us to empathize with and enjoy media characters who engage in problematic actions. Moral disengagement ...

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