This programme group addresses the entertaining role of communication and information. Researchers in this programme focus on traditional lean-back entertainment, such as television shows, films, and reality television, as well as on lean-forward entertainment, such as web games, instant messaging, and friend networking sites.
The research has a media psychological orientation. It is based on the perspective that differences between audience members or groups cause them to seek out different media content, use this media content differently, and respond to it differently. Little is still understood of the specific factors that explain the appeal and effects of media entertainment. The program seeks to fill this void in entertainment theories and research. The key questions of this program are (1) which individual and collective factors explain the use, attention, and attraction to media entertainment, and (2) what are the consequences of media entertainment use?
The program focuses on children and adolescents. In recent decades, the media entertainment environment of children and adolescents has changed dramatically: It has become more fast-paced, arousing, and violent; it has been targeting children at an ever younger age, and it has increasingly been intertwined with information and education. Although entertainment-effects research among young people has mushroomed in the past decade, we lack a decisive answer to many important questions of vital importance to parents, policy makers, and the society at large. This program consists of three major research lines.
The first research line investigates the immediate experience of media entertainment by its users. It focuses on identifying and explaining particular experiential states invoked by lean-back and lean-forward media entertainment, such as transportation, flow, and emotions. The research will use experimental designs and artificial stimuli in testing the effects of media product attributes. It will involve the development of verbal and non-verbal measurement techniques. This research line will greatly contribute to our understanding of entertainment appreciation, genre choice, and success and the relation between entertainment use and well-being and identity formation.
A second research line, entitled "the entertainization of childhood" addresses the impact of several characteristics of media entertainment (e.g., rapid pace, violence, action) on children's cognitive, affective, and behavioral development (i.e., cognitive ability, learning, ADHD, and antisocial behavior). An important aim of research line is to unravel the interplay between biological (e.g., genetic make-up, temperament), developmental, and social influences (i.e., parent, peer, and media influences) on children's development. The aim of this research line is to hypothesize on and investigate three different types of individual susceptibility to entertainment effects: biologicallybased, socially-based, and developmentally-based susceptibility. This research enables us to simultaneously discover: (a) how and why certain types of entertainment may influence certain children and adolescents, (b) which age groups are particularly susceptible to both positive and negative effects, and (c) how family and peer environments can maximize positive and minimize negative entertainment effects on children and adolescents.
A third research line focuses on the sexual entertainment environment of youth. In the past years, there have been heated public debates about whether audio-visual sexual content on the internet and on television, such as music videos, reality series, and pornographic material, affects adolescents' sexuality. Still, however, we lack a profound understanding of when and why such effects occur. Specifically, we do not know (a) which characteristics of audio-visual sexual content may cause such effects; (b) which processes underlie the effects; and (c) whether they depend on adolescents' developmental level and gender. The project addresses these shortcomings by developing a comprehensive account of how audio-visual sexual content influences adolescents' sexuality, especially their sexual cognitions and sexual risk behavior.
Media content is not monolithic, nor are media users. Research thus far has mostly ignored individual differences and differences in content. By doing so, we risk to overlook the group for which media effects may be much more pronounced. Therefore, the aim of this PhD project is to examine (a) in-depth the types of media entertainment content preferred by (pre-)adolescents, (b) individual differences in selective exposure to different media entertainment content types, and (c) the effects of different types of violent content in different settings on aggression.
Robots are no longer just made to perform tasks, but are increasingly made for social interaction. Most of the research on child-robot interaction focuses on the possible learning gains that come from the interaction. However, in order for an interaction to be successful, the child first needs to accept a robot. Whereas scholars have repeatedly pointed out that expectations about social robots affect whether children accept social robots, to date even basic knowledge about the antecedents of children’s acceptance of robots is missing. Against this background, my research project will focus on the development and testing of a model on the antecedents of children’s robot acceptance. Additionally, I will study in a long-term perspective whether actual interaction with a robot will impact these antecedents, particularly when the interaction becomes more personal.
While robots used to be made for labor, they are increasingly also made for relationships. Indeed, children will soon grow up surrounded by social robots. It is therefore of crucial importance to understand how children form relationships with these robots. In this light, Caroline’s research project studies relationship formation between children and social robots in a long-term perspective. More specifically, it investigates how various characteristics of child-robot interaction affect closeness and trust between children and social robots.
Social media content is often presented together with information in the form of comments or likes. This social information can affect the manner in which users experience online media content. The main goal of this research project is to systematically investigate the main characteristics of user comments on YouTube and how they are related to young people’s hedonic entertainment experiences. The project will offer new insights into how digital media entertainment environments affect their users and how entertainment theories have to be adapted to the new digital media landscape of the 21st century.