Differential effects of film genre on viewers’ absorption, identification, and enjoyment

Jacqueline M. Thompson, Ben Teasdale, Sophie Duncan, Evert van Emde Boas, Felix Budelmann, Laurie Maguire, Robin I. M. Dunbar

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Marketers, filmmakers, and cinema-goers assume that genre has a large effect on how the audience responds to and engages with a film. However, trait measures such as transportability suggest that, in some cases, individual differences may shape audience engagement more than genre does. To investigate this disparity, we compared viewers’ enjoyment, identification with characters, and story world absorption (including three subscales: Transportation, Attention, and Emotional Engagement) for film clips from two very different genres (an emotional family film vs. an action chase scene) in a within-subjects design. Across two studies—an exploratory study and a preregistered replication—we found that participants’ feelings of being transported into the narrative (a dimension of story world absorption) were more highly correlated across films than other measures were and tended to be less related to genre preference than the other audience response measures were. This pattern of results suggests that feelings of transportation may be more dependent on individual differences, and less sensitive to genre, than other forms of audience response. An exploratory analysis of a short scale measuring trait transportability suggested this measure was not the basis of the individual differences theorized to underlie transportation. Our results further highlight the importance of examining viewer engagement with narrative as a multidimensional, rather than unitary, concept.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697-709
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
Issue number4
Early online date2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Audiences
  • Films
  • Narratives
  • Pleasure
  • Psychological Engagement
  • Attention
  • Individual Differences
  • Preferences
  • Test Construction

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