Neuroimaging research suggests that watching a movie synchronizes brain activity between observers. This is surprising in light of anecdotal reports that viewers construct their experience radically differently, consistent with contemporary cognitive media theory. This article empirically tests the degree of agreement in the appraisal of commercially produced major motion pictures. Ratings for more than two hundred carefully selected movies were solicited from a diverse pool of more than three thousand study participants. Doing so shows that intersubjective movie appraisal is strikingly low but significantly different from zero. The article also shows that these ratings correlate only weakly with the judgment of professional movie critics. Taken together, this study supports the notion that movies are an extremely rich, highly dimensional narrative stimulus with many degrees of freedom for viewers to construct their subjective experience in a highly idiosyncratic fashion.
Pascal Wallisch, PhD, serves as a clinical assistant professor of psychology at New York University. His research interests concern motion perception, generally conceived, for example, its neural basis, its attentional impact, and its appraisal. His work was recognized with a variety of honors, including the Wayne C. Booth Prize and Golden Dozen Award for Excellence in Teaching, as well as the First Eagleman Prize. He also was a recipient of a German National Merit Scholarship.
Jake Alden Whritner is a laboratory/tech assistant at the Cognitive and Data Science (CoDaS) Lab at the Rutgers University-Newark, where he works on a visual perception project that uses augmented reality to study and train the visual system. His research interests include dynamic event cognition and the interaction between visual processing and attention.