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Mass Communicating With Power: Exploring Media’s Capacity to Promote Moral Emotions and Inspire Prosociality

Mon, June 13, 9:30 to 10:45, Fukuoka Hilton, Argos C

Session Submission Type: Panel


The mass communication canon is filled with studies probing the deleterious effects of media content and technology on individuals and society as a whole. In recent years, though, scholars have increasingly explored ways that the power of media communication can be harnessed to promote personal well-being and human flourishing and to inspire prosocial and others’ benefitting behaviors. Of particular interest in such work has been the role of moral emotional reactions to media content. Research reveals that moral emotions such as empathy, gratitude, hope, guilt, and especially, the subset known as self-transcendent emotions—elevation, awe, and admiration—can draw us out of our usual state of (ego-centric, self-) consciousness, motivating us to strive to better ourselves and all humanity (e.g., Algoe & Haidt, 2009; Frederickson, 2009; Haidt, 2003; Haidt & Morris, 2009; Keltner & Haidt, 2003). Reflecting on the conference theme of “Communicating with Power,” scholars from eight different institutions in the United States and Germany will discuss their ongoing efforts to examine the ways that media content has the power to trigger moral emotional reactions and how those reactions may (or may not) be associated with beneficial personal and social outcomes. Their work reflects a breadth of empirical mass communication research, including explorations of media’s power to promote well-being and inspire prosociality in contexts ranging from the workplace to the department store to home life, and with content as diverse as environmental messages, user-generated viral videos, and digital games.

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