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.