Transcendence is a core virtue that motivates people to strive for and connect with purpose and meaning that is greater or higher than ourselves. Transcendence is encountered and further developed when we experience certain emotions like awe, elevation, admiration, hope and gratitude. These self-transcendent emotions help us to cultivate an others-oriented perspective in our daily lives, encouraging us to strive to better ourselves and the world around us. Recently, communication scholars have begun investigating the power of media content to elicit such emotions and to inspire personal well-being, character development, and prosocial behaviors. Examples of such content are plentiful, from touching films like Life is Beautiful and Pursuit of Happyness to meaningful television series like Friday Night Lights and Touched by an Angel; from “good news” reports to viral videos shared through sites like UpWorthy and Facebook. Collectively, this content can be called inspirational media.
With generous support from the John Templeton Foundation we are the first team of researchers to systematically examine inspirational media and its unique role in promoting self-transcendent emotions, and, in turn, cultivating character, an “others-praising” perspective, and prosocial behavior. The knowledge we gain from this three-year project (August 2015- July 2018) should better equip parents, medical professionals, clinicians, educators, clergy, politicians, and lay people alike with strategies to seek out inspiration and to maximize the character-building potential in those experiences. From an academic perspective, our work should also begin to fill a gaping hole in the positive media psychology literature.
To understand the complex relationships between media content, self-transcendent emotional experiences, inspiration, transcendence and broader character development, personal and social well-being, and prosocial behavior, we will examine several broad research questions across three domains: content, audiences, and effects.
Findings and activities associated with the project will be shared through this website, as well as through international and national academic conferences, journal publications, and news releases. The project will culminate in a two-day research symposium in Spring 2018, hosted by the School of Communication at Florida State University.
If you have questions or are interested in discussing our research, please do not hesitate to contact us.