The Experience of Elevation: Responses to Media Portrayals of Moral Beauty

Mary Beth Oliver, Erin Ash, Julia K. Woolley

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Surveying the landscape of media-effects research reveals what appears to be a general focus on the harms that media may cause. Included are decades of work on the effects of media violence in contributing to aggression (Sparks, Sparks, & Sparks, 2008), and studies of how media may heighten stereotyping of minorities and women (Mastro, 2009; Smith & Granados, 2008). Of course, the potential harms of entertainment specifically have also been a focus of concern in media psychology. Such concerns can be seen across different types of programing and content, including video games (Anderson & Bushman, 2001) and children’s programs (Wilson et al., 2002), among others. Although we certainly acknowledge and appreciate the motivation for studying the “uglier” aspects of media influence, our chapter embraces a decidedly distinct focus-one on the issue of media and moral beauty. Specifically, in this chapter we focus our attention on the positive, other-praising emotion of “elevation” in response to media entertainment. The motivation for our focus on this speciflc affective response is driven by several observations. First, we believe that the experience of elevation in response to media portrayals is not only familiar to most people but that it also provides a means to understand positive evaluations of some types of media entertainment that may seem paradoxical, such as sad films or tear-jerkers. Second, we note that the motivational outcomes associated with the experience of elevation may hold promise for scholarship on prosocial uses of media. Finally, we believe that technological changes in the media landscape that allow for easy social sharing may make the experience of media elevation particularly relevant. With these motivations in mind, this chapter begins with a description of elevation and how it is conceptualized, turns to its application in mediarelated contexts, discusses its potential for prosocial outcomes, and finally ends with a consideration of additional avenues for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMedia and the Moral Mind
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781136460272
ISBN (Print)9780415506359
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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