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How Sad Movies Can Increase Happiness


In an article on, Shari writes about a study published in the online edition of Communication Research by Ohio State professor Siliva Knoblock-Westerwick and her research team on what effect watching a sad or tragic movie has upon viewers. They used the 2007 film Atonement in which the love affair of two people is interrupted by war. Participants in the study were asked to determine their levels of happiness before and after seeing the film. The findings proved to be very interesting.

The students who felt saddest during Atonement reported a greater boost in happiness afterward? Why? The story forced these people to reflect on their own love relationships and they concluded that they felt better off than those who suffered on the screen. On the other hand, those who focused on themselves in their response to the film did not feel increased happiness after it ended.

"Tragedies don't boost life happiness by making viewers think more of themselves. They appeal to people because they help them to appreciate their own relationships more," concludes Knoblock--Westerwick.

In our efforts to understand and appreciate the spiritual dimensions of movies, we have great respect for sad movies which move us to tears, as we wrote in our article on the the gift of tears. Now to learn that one of the benefits of tragedies is to enable us to count our blessings — that is good news indeed!

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