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Knop-Huelss, Katharina; Rieger, Diana and Schneider, Frank M. (2020): Thinking About Right and Wrong: Examining the Effect of Moral Conflict on Entertainment Experiences, and Knowledge. In: Media Psychology, Vol. 23, No. 5: pp. 625-650

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Given that news stories feature many morally-laden topics, this study investigated the effect of moral conflict in news stories on entertainment experiences and learning outcomes. We propose that a reader’s perception of moral conflict in a non-fictional news story will lead to the cognitively engaging experience of appreciation, which is characterized as thought-provoking, moving, and meaningful. Moreover, we suggest that this experience will impact two aspects of knowledge gain: the acquisition of knowledge (objective knowledge) and the perception of having learned something (subjective knowledge). To investigate whether the perception of moral conflict and the experience of appreciation hampers or fosters knowledge gain, an online experiment was conducted in which participants (N= 334) read a feature story that was manipulated to induce the perception of moral conflict. Our results demonstrated that a news article perceived as morally conflicting led to more appreciation than one that was not perceived as morally conflicting. Our findings provide insight into the relationship between perceived moral conflict and learning outcomes, that is, knowledge acquisition and subjective knowledge, and the role of entertainment experiences in this relationship. Results are discussed in relation to the influence of entertainment experiences on learning.

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