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Lyubov Bugaeva, Rory Kelly, Susan McCabe, and Janina Wildfeuer

Ana Hedberg Olenina. Psychomotor Aesthetics: Movement and Affect in Modern Literature and Film. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020, 416 pp., $36.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9780190051266.

Jennifer O'Meara. Engaging Dialogue: Cinematic Verbalism in American Independent Cinema. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018, 218 pp., $29.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9781474420624.

Malcolm Turvey. Play Time: Jacques Tati and Comedic Modernism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019, 304 pp., $30.00 (paperback), ISBN: 9780231193030.

Neil Cohn. Who Understands Comics? London: Bloomsbury, 2020, 240 pp., $42.75 (paperback), ISBN 978-1-3501-5603-6.

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Jose Cañas-Bajo, Johanna Silvennoinen, and Pertti Saariluoma


The success of a film depends not only on the quality of individual elements in the film but also on cultural factors that may influence the viewers’ reactions. In this study, we investigated the role of these factors by presenting Spanish and Finnish participants films produced in Finland, Spain, or the United States. Emotional reactions were assessed online through a response system synchronized with the films and offline through questionnaires. Results indicated that overall emotional reactions of the two audiences were very similar, suggesting a high degree of universality. However, we also found differences in the way the two audiences reacted to some specific sequences within the films. Qualitative analyses suggested that these differences are related to some cultural dimensions (e.g., collectivism). We interpret the data as supporting both universality and cultural mediation where cultural variation might be more evident in films varying in narrative structure, genre, or cultural origin.

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Examining the Relationship between Story Structure and Audience Response

How Shared Brain Activity Varies over the Course of a Narrative

Sara M. Grady, Ralf Schmälzle, and Joshua Baldwin


When audiences watch a movie, we can examine the similarities among their brain activity via inter-subject correlation (ISC) analysis. This study examines how the strength of ISC (how similarly brains respond) varies over the course of a Pixar short film: specifically comparing this across the exposition, rising action, climax/fall out, and resolution sections of the story. We focus on ISC in the mentalizing network, often linked to social-cognitive processes that are essential to narrative engagement. We find that ISC rises from exposition to the climax. Moreover, we explore this shared response across age groups, finding that ISC is present across age groups, albeit weak in younger children. This approach offers new insights into the brain basis of engagement and story structure.

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Sound Anchors

A Cognitive and Multimodal Approach to Sound and Narrative Structure in Film

Brad Jackson


When watching a film, we engage with much more than combinations of moving images. We combine what we see with what we hear, and what we hear often aids in the construction of a story. Although some researchers endorse the ways sound guides viewer expectations, there is still a need to explain the ways images, sounds, and other available cinematic modes interact to construct meaning. This article engages with research on embodiment, cognition, and multimodal artifacts to reveal how sound aids in the construction of film narratives by focusing on examples where sounds take the primary role in constructions of narrative meaning. Additionally, by discussing recent theories on cognition and multimodality, this article shows how sounds can evoke conceptual and narrative information in ways that stabilize our understanding of cinematic representations through the joint contribution of all of the available modes.

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Wyatt Moss-Wellington, Dooley Murphy, Robert Sinnerbrink, and Kirsten Moana Thompson

Martin P. Rossouw. Transformational Ethics of Film. Leiden: Brill, 2021, 316 pp., $150.00 (hardback), ISBN: 9789004459953.

Grant Tavinor. The Aesthetics of Virtual Reality. New York: Routledge, 2021, 163 pp., $160.00, ISBN: 9780367619251.

Rebecca A. Sheehan. American Avant-Garde Cinema's Philosophy of the In-Between. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020, 292 + xi pp., $41.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9780190949716.

Deborah Walker-Morrison. Classic French Noir: Gender and the Cinema of Fatal Desire. London: I.B. Tauris, 2019, 272 pp., $77.00, ISBN 9781350157446.

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Constructing Film Emotions

The Theory of Constructed Emotion as a Biocultural Framework for Cognitive Film Theory

Timothy Justus


In the classical view of emotion, the basic emotions (anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise) are assumed to be natural kinds that are perceiver-independent. Correspondingly, each is thought to possess a distinct neural and physiological signature, accompanied by an expression that is universally recognized despite differences in culture, era, and language. An alternative, the theory of constructed emotion, emphasizes that, while the underlying interoceptive sensations are biological, emotional concepts are learned, socially constructed categories, characterized by many-to-many relationships among diverse brain states, physiological signs, facial movements, and their emotional meanings. This biocultural view permits a greater degree of cultural-historical specificity when interpreting the emotions of others. In this article, I consider the implications of the theory of constructed emotion for cognitive film theory, especially regarding the interpretation of depicted facial expressions of emotion as one aspect of cinematic expression. Particular attention is given to recent work revisiting the Kuleshov effect, in which the meaning of a character's facial expression is thought to change in the context of a montage.

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Marc Hye-Knudsen


In 1964, near the height of Cold War nuclear anxiety, millions of Americans flocked to movie theatres to see their own nuclear annihilation hilariously enacted for them in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. How did Kubrick transform one of his time's most pressing causes of psychological distress into a source of humorous pleasure? To answer this question, I offer a cognitive account of how comic distance works on film, building on research indicating humor to be an evolved response to benign violations. I show that Kubrick consistently optimized for psychological distance in Dr. Strangelove, comparing his narrative and stylistic choices to those of Sidney Lumet in Fail Safe, a contemporaneous film that plays the same essential story for drama instead of laughs.

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James E. Cutting


Since Aristotle, tradition has it that stories are defined as unified wholes, divisible into smaller inter-related parts. In many narrative forms these parts are called scenes. Scenes, too, are regarded as wholes, typically unified on three grounds: a constancy of characters and location within a continuous time frame. Generally, if a storyteller changes one or more of these, the story has moved on to the next scene. But this rule is not universal. The most obvious exception in movies is the telephone call, which can change locations to accommodate images of the two conversing characters. Here, I explore a century's worth of popular, English-language movies to discern how two-sided telephone conversations (which violate spatial unity) are portrayed on the screen, and how they compare to face-to-face conversations (which do not violate spatial unity) in the same movies. The portrayal of both types of conversations has evolved, sometimes independently and sometimes in synchrony, and popular filmmaking has arrived circuitously at a system in which both are generally portrayed in the same way—two characters in alternating shots, slightly to opposite sides of the midline and turned towards one another. I discuss the social and psychological reasons why this might be the case.

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When Lamps Have Feelings

Empathy and Anthropomorphism Toward Inanimate Objects in Animated Films

Alyssa D. Edwards and Daniel M. Shafer


This article presents a study that investigated the phenomenon of empathic connection with non-human movie characters. Using an original, animated video as a stimulus to explore the relationship between anthropomorphism and empathy, the study found that characters with appendages significantly increased viewers’ empathy and use of anthropomorphic language when compared to a character without appendages. This was true regardless of the type of appendage or whether participants labeled the appendage using human anatomy terms. Additionally, participants’ use of anthropomorphic language was significantly linked to empathy. Thus, anthropomorphism and empathy are connected when viewing animated characters, but an explanation of all factors behind these processes is yet to be discovered.

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Maarten Coëgnarts, Jonathan Frome, Christopher Goetz, and Maureen Turim

Roger F. Cook. Postcinematic Vision: The Coevolution of Moving-Image Media and the Spectator. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2020, 240 pp., $27.00 (paperback) ISBN: 9781517907679.

Federico Alvarez Igarzábal. Time and Space in Video Games: A Cognitive-Formalist Approach. Bielefeld: Transcript-Verlag, 2020, 220 pp., $45.00 (paperback), ISBN: 9783837647136.

Daniel Reynolds. Media in Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019, 224 pp., $38.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9780190872526.

Walley, Jonathan. Cinema Expanded. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020, 576 pp., $39.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9780190938642.