The Effects of Film on Viewers’ Morality

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Movies uniquely contribute to the creation of the cultural narrative, which influences people’s expectations of the real world. Thus, filmmakers and viewers need a better understanding of the effects of film on viewers. The present study (N = 77) analyzed whether viewing a film can shift moral intuitions (Haidt, 2001), and whether different films shift moral intuitions in different ways even if the films are similar in content. Past research has found that film can create emotional responses and trigger aggressive behavior, but previous studies have failed to account for the complexity of a narrative that is found in a feature-length film, which could alter moral intuitions. Films portraying war were chosen for this study because the content is generally similar (e.g., violent, military-oriented), but the portrayal of war can be diverse, allowing for the creation of complex narratives that could lead to different perceptions and moral intuitions. This study measured the differential changes in five moral intuitions and shifts in attitudes toward institutional authority based on viewing one of two war films and paid attention to moderating effects of gender and ethnicity. Although the main hypotheses predicting that participants viewing We Were Soldiers would (a) report lower ingroup morality at Time 2 than participants who view Act of Valor; (b) report lower authority morality at Time 2 than participants who view Act of Valor; and (c) report significantly different attitudes toward institutional authority at Time 2 than those who view Act of Valor were not supported, an interaction effect due to gender was found.

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (PsyD)

First Advisor

Schnitker, Sarah A.

Document Type





Motion pictures, Moral and ethical aspects, Communication and the arts




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