Why Tragic Movies Make People Smile

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Tragic movies provoke feelings of happiness in viewers, according to researchers at Ohio State University.

Having agreed to sit through First World War weepie Atonement (starring Keira Knightley) 361 college students were then quizzed on their reactions, before, during and after the movie.

Watching the tragic movie encouraged viewers to think about the positive aspect of their own close relationships, which boosted happiness levels, explained the report’s summary.

“People seem to use tragedies as a way to reflect on the important relationships in their own life, to count their blessings,”said Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, lead author of the study and associate professor of communication at Ohio State University.

“That can help explain why tragedies are so popular with audiences, despite the sadness they induce.”

However, researchers found that feelings of ‘schadenfreude’ did not play into the results.

“Tragedies don’t boost life happiness by making viewers think more about themselves. They appeal to people because they help them to appreciate their own relationships more,” said Knobloch-Westerwick.

The full results of the study will be published in the journal Communication Research in an upcoming print edition.

 
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