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Enjoyment of destruction: The role of uncertainty


Enjoyment is frequently associated with acts of destruction. It is posited that enjoyment derived from observing or engaging in destruction is related to the stimulus characteristics of the object being destroyed. Specifically, the factors that determine a person's enjoyment of aesthetic stimuli should also affect one's response to destruction. In the present experiment one stimulus characteristic was studied—uncertainty concerning the breaking of a pane of glass. Subjects observed a film in which three panes of glass broke immediately upon being struck, but the fourth pane of glass broke on either the first strike (low uncertainty) or the third strike (high uncertainty). Results indicated that subjects enjoyed the breaking more in the high-uncertainty condition, that is, when they were more uncertain about when the glass would break. The findings support the aesthetic theory of destruction and also have implications for design.

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Allen, V.L., Greenberger, D.B. Enjoyment of destruction: The role of uncertainty. J Nonverbal Behav 4, 87–96 (1979).

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