Respiratory Responses to Television Genres
Carson B. Wagner (MA Student)
Dr. S. Shyam Sundar
For a complete report of this research, see:
Wagner, C. B., & Sundar, S. S. (1998, November). Respiratory responses
to television genres. Paper presented to the Intrapersonal Communication
and Social Cognition Division at the 84th annual convention of the National
Communication Association (NCA), New York City.
Different genres of television programs induce different emotions. Each
emotion, in turn, has its own characteristic breathing pattern. We laugh
at comedic programs, and we sob during those rife with melancholy. We
find ourselves breathing hard and heavy during suspenseful shows, and
gasping when they horrify us. But, do those moments of suspense and outbreaks
of laughter, along with the general moods created by the shows, affect
our overall breathing patterns as we watch? Prior research has shown that
correlations exist between television programming and emotion, and between
emotion and respiratory patterns. However it is not clear whether the
effects of television programs are strong enough to elicit specific respiratory
reactions. This exploratory study was designed to investigate whether
different television program genres elicit distinct respiratory patterns.
Twenty one participants took part in a within-participants experiment.
Respiratory volume was recorded while participants viewed five segments
of television programming: Situation Comedy, Local News, National News,
Rock Video, and Tabloid News.
The volume data were used to arrive at three dependent measures: minimum
volume of respiration, maximum volume of respiration, and mean volume
Overall, the findings show that television programming genres elicit
distinguishable respiratory patterns. The results for Mean Respiratory
Volume show that a significant difference exists between baseline and
each of the genres. The minimum and maximum respiratory volume data show
that each program genre has a distinct respiratory pattern (see fig. 1).
Overall, the findings show that television program genres elicit distinguishable
respiratory patterns. Comparative data amongst genres indicate that no
two genres share the same inspiration and expiration relationship with
each other. This study, for the first time, demonstrates psychophysiological
correlates for television genres. It is likely that these correlates are
specific to states of emotion. It is probable that distinct categories
of other TV program genres will cause similarly generalizable reactions.
The results from this exploratory study suggest that further investigation
linking emotion and media consumption through respiratory patterns can
yield a better understanding of how various media genres affect viewers.