A Dialogue with Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp on the SEEKING System: Breaking the Divide between Emotion and Cognition in Film Studies

in Projections
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  • 1 University of Paris 8 karinbadt@yahoo.com
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Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp's theory of SEEKING offers a fundamental insight into why film spectators are engaged by what they see on screen. This article offers a new reading of Panksepp's SEEKING theory and how it applies to spectatorship, a reading informed by two months of the author's personal exchange with the scientist. The article states that the SEEKING impulse—defined as the emotional instinct to seek resources—applies not only to how the spectator identifies with the main character and his search for resources, but to how the spectator responds to visual and aural cues regardless of the story or characters. The article provides a corrective to spectator theories which focus too narrowly on narrative as a cue for viewer mental activity. An examination of two scenes from The Bicycle Thief and Stalker shows how SEEKING can occur on both the primary and tertiary level, thus breaking the emotion-cognition divide.