The Winner Doesn’t Take It All: Analyzing Audience Responses to an Inspirational Sports Narrative

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

The Winner Doesn’t Take It All: Analyzing Audience Responses to an Inspirational Sports Narrative


  • Joshua Baldwin Department of Communication, Michigan State University, USA
  • Gary Bente Department of Communication, Michigan State University, USA


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Abstract:  Applying a dual-process rationale, this study explored the cognitive and affective mechanisms involved in the processing of hedonic versus eudaimonic film clips and their putatively distinct inspirational effects. The two types of narratives were operationalized in terms of complete and incomplete goal satisfaction in the film endings. Participants either watched the final boxing match from Rocky, where the protagonist loses the fight, but achieves self-mastery and finds love (eudaimonic narrative) or from Rocky II, where he wins against his opponent (hedonic narrative). A combination of continuous measures of how pleasant participants felt (slider ratings) and psychophysiological measures (heart rate, galvanic skin response [GSR], pulse volume amplitude [PVA]) indicating cognitive load and arousal was used to track the audience responses while watching a compilation of the same intro and the different fight versions. Results revealed that arousal was more strongly associated with participants’ affective scores during the hedonic (winning) version than during the eudaimonic (losing) one. Furthermore, participants experience more positive affect and arousal after watching the protagonist win the match compared to those that watched him lose. Lastly, participants in the eudaimonic condition were more likely to be inspired to exercise afterward. Implications of our results are discussed.

Keywords:  arousal; entertainment; eudaimonic media; hedonic media; inspirational media; psychophysiology

Published:   6 May 2021


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v9i2.3840


© Joshua Baldwin, Gary Bente. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.