Dramatic Irony

A Case Study in the Mutual Benefit of Combining Social Neuroscience with Film Theory

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Abstract

How do we understand the experiences of characters in a movie? Similar to real life, viewers attribute mental states to characters through a process known as Theory of Mind (ToM). Filmmakers commonly use Dramatic Irony, a narrative device where the audience knows something that at least one characters does not. From a social neuroscience perspective, understanding the cognitive mechanisms that underlie dramatic irony can provide a remarkable opportunity to study ToM in a more ecologically relevant context. While descriptive narrative theories of dramatic irony exist, these have never been studied in relation to contemporary social neuroscience. In this opinion piece, we aim to bring together these two traditionally isolated disciplines to propose a cross-disciplinary research roadmap for investigating the social neuroscience of dramatic irony in cinema.

Contributor Notes

Cynthia Cabañas, MSc, is a PhD Student in the Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London in the Cognition in Naturalistic Environments (CINE) lab under the supervision of Prof. Tim J. Smith and Dr. Atsushi Senju. She is interested in the role of theory of mind and empathy on film narrative comprehension and the cinematic formal features that filmmakers use to enhance these processes. Email: ccaban01@mail.bbk.ac.uk. ORCID: 0000-0002-2920-3907.

Tim J. Smith, PhD, is Professor of Cognitive Psychology in the Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London and head of the Cognition in Naturalistic Environments (CINE) Lab (www.cinelabresearch.com). His research covers all aspects of visual cognition with a special focus on the active perception of real and mediated scenes (e.g., TV and Film) via eye movements. Email: tj.smith@bbk.ac.uk. ORCID: 0000-0002-2808-9401.

Atsushi Senju, PhD, is Reader in Social Neuroscience in the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development and Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London. His main research interest is the developmental origin of the “Social Brain” network, and its atypical development in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Email: a.senju@bbk.ac.uk.

Projections

The Journal for Movies and Mind

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