I feel what they say: the effect of social media comments on viewers affective reactions toward elevating online videos

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Journal Article

The present study examined whether peer comments on video-sharing platforms can influence the emotional reactions toward entertaining videos. This question is especially relevant with regard to meaningful videos known to increase prosocial motivation and reduce stereotypes. In a 3x3x2 between-subjects online experiment (N = 732), we varied the type of video (unity of humankind, portrayals of human kindness, funny videos) and valence (positive, neutral, negative) as well as internationality (English vs international) of peer reactions. Results demonstrate that peer comments indeed alter the emotional effects of the video clip, with negative comments leading to a reduced sense of elevation. The extent to which viewers socially identified with commenters explained this pattern and intensified associated effects such as an increased universal orientation. ©, © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Media Psychology
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Journal Article
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To test the hypotheses, we conducted an online experiment in which participants were asked to watch a YouTube video. In a 3x3x2 between-subjects design, the type of video that was shown (acts of human kindness vs. unity of humankind vs. funny material) as well as the valence (positive vs. neutral vs. negative) and the internationality of comments (English vs. international) were systematically varied. [...]


English-speaking participants were recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Eight-hundred and ninety-three people completed the survey and received a compensation of $0.50 USD. [...] The final sample consisted of 732 participants (376 female, 4 not specified) with an average age of 38.13 years (SD = 12.63). The majority (78.1%) were White, 8.5% were African American, 7% were Hispanic/Latino, and 6.8% were Asian (multiple answers were possible). Participants were randomly assigned to one of the conditions.

Independent variable: video type

Based on a prior study, we selected videos that portrayed acts of human kindness or the similarity of humans around the world (“we are one kind”), whereas clips with funny material were shown as a control condition. [...]

Independent variables: valence and internationality of comments

The videos were displayed in a YouTube environment that featured five ostensible user comments. These comments were either positive [...], neutral [...], or negative [...] toward the main video. Furthermore, the internationality of comments was varied systematically: The comments were either English-only or included a mixture of languages [...]. [...] Based on the results, we selected five comments for each valence [...].


After being exposed to the clip, participants rated their feelings of elevation using 10 items [...]. Because elevation is thought to be an affective state characterized by such feelings as being moved, touched, and inspired and by distinct bodily reactions (e.g., choked up, tearing up), we also measured these responses as a means of validating our measure. Seven eudaimonic affect items [...] and seven bodily reactions [...] were measured [...]. [...] The degree to which the video induced prosocial motivations was measured with five items [...] that were displayed besides six items on nonprosocial motivations [...]. [...] To measure universal orientation, six items [...] were employed [...]. [...] Eighteen items assessed the degree to which participants would be open to interact with stereotyped groups. Three questions [...] were shown for each of the six groups (immigrants, Jews, Black people, Muslims, people of the opposite sex, gays, and lesbians). [...] The level of viewers’ identification with the commenters was measured with six items that were based on research on social identification processes [...].