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Scholars have increasingly explored the ways that media content can touch, move, and inspire audiences, leading to numerous beneficial outcomes including increased feelings of connectedness to and heightened motivations for doing good for others. Although this line of inquiry is relatively new, sufficient evidence and patterns of results have emerged such that a clearer picture of the inspiring media experience is coming into focus. This article has two primary goals. First, we seek to synthesize the existing research into a working and evolving model of inspiring media experiences reflecting five interrelated and symbiotic elements: exposure, message factors, responses, outcomes, and personal/situational factors. The model also identifies theoretical mechanisms underlying the previously observed positive effects. Secondly, the article explores situations in which, and precipitating factors present, when these hoped-for outcomes either fail to materialize or result in negative or maladaptive responses and outcomes. Ultimately, the model is proposed as a heuristic roadmap for future scholarship and as an invitation for critique and collaboration in the emerging field of positive media psychology.


This article was originally published in Media Psychology, volume 33, issue 4, in 2021.


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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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