Reconsidering the Relationship between Sensation Seeking and Audience Preferences for Viewing Televised Sports

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Stephen R. McDaniel University of Maryland

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Some research suggests that males and females differ in terms of their enjoyment from viewing televised sports characterized as either violent combative (e.g., football and hockey), violent aggressive (e.g., basketball and soccer), or stylistic (e.g., figure skating and gymnastics) in nature. However, no theory-based explanation for the above differences has been supported. Zeckerman's (1994) theory of sensation seeking offers face validity in this context, as gender differences have been associated with the personality trait as has the consumption of violent media and contact sports (Krcmar & Green, 1999; Schroth, 1994). A snowball quota sample (n = 305) was employed to investigate adults' (18+) interest in viewing different types of sports telecasts (i.e., combative and stylistic). Four hypotheses were formulated based on the existing literature, with two of them being fully supported and a third receiving limited support. Among the key results, adult respondents' interests in viewing telecasts of combative or stylistic sports differed significantly by gender. In addition, reported interest in watching coverage of violent combative sports was positively related to sensation seeking for both sexes. Meanwhile, interest in viewing stylistic sports on television was a negative function of the trait for females. The theoretical and applied implications of the results are discussed, along with directions for future research in this area.

The author is with the Department of Kinesiology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD.

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