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Friday, August 2, 2019

The Gordian Knot of Disposition Theory: Character Morality and Liking

Matthew Grizzard, Jialing Huang, Changhyun Ahn, and others
Journal of Media Psychology.


Morally ambiguous characters are often perceived to challenge Zillmann’s affective disposition theory of drama. At the heart of this challenge is the question: “To what extent can liking be independent of character morality?” The current study examines this question with a 2 (Disposition: Positive vs. Negative) × 3 (Character Type: Hero, Antihero, Villain) between-subjects factorial experiment that induces variance in liking and morality. We assess the influence of these orthogonal manipulations on measured liking and morality. Main effects of both manipulations on the measured variables emerged, with a significant correlation between measures. Regression analyses further confirm that liking is associated with perceived morality and vice versa. Because variance in morality was induced by the liking manipulation and variance in liking was induced by the morality manipulation, the assumptions of disposition theory regarding morality and liking seem accurate. Future research directions are provided that may help reconcile and integrate the seeming challenge of morally ambiguous characters with affective disposition theory.

The research is here.

Here is a link to a separate paper on Moral Pornography as it applies to comic book heroes and villains.