Mood-management theory (Zillmann 1988) proposes to explain the choices we make in all conceivable stimulus arrangements on the premise that we are hedonists. As a hedonistic user of media entertainment we will use media to get rid of a bad mood and into a good mood. We might also use media to perpetuate or maintain a good mood if we find ourselves already in one.
The problem here, I think, is defining what is a good mood and this is not as obvious as it may seem and certainly not the same for all media-users or in all situations. What constitutes a ‘good mood’ depends on circumstance and personal preference, and is not always the more pleasant option.
For example in a research where Bryant and Zillmann (1984) tried to predict what choice in TV show stressed and bored persons would make they failed to correctly do so for the stressed persons. They interpreted the results by assuming ‘stressed persons can calm down only when watching television’ regardless of content. Maybe these stressed persons did not want to be calmed down but enjoyed their heightened state. Perhaps this was their good mood.
Another research is one (Zillmann et al. 1980) in which the scientists antagonized the respondents and then gave them a choice between hostile and non-hostile comedy. The women were obliging enough to choose non-hostile comedy when angry. Sadly the male respondents sought out hostile comedy when frustrated thereby opposing the hedonistic valence and the discussion of results focuses on the female respondents. Maybe the male ‘good mood’ was to express, or have someone express for them, the frustration they felt. Not ‘pleasant’ but pleasurable.
Perhaps if you are grieving, which is a long-term mood-state, crying over a sad movie will help you mourn your own loss. Although this is not putting you in a ‘good mood’, it is definitely serving a function that is desirable and good for you.
The above goes against the hedonistic valence in which pleasant is always best, indicating that sometimes unpleasant is better.
Zillmann, D. (1988) Mood Management Through Communication Choices American Behavioral Scientist ; 31; 327, Sage Publications. Downloaded from © 1988 SAGE Publications.at UNIV OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA on July 6, 2007 http://abs.sagepub.com