Review of Patrick Colm Hogan, UNDERSTANDING INDIAN MOVIES: CULTURE, COGNITION, AND CINEMATIC IMAGINATION
This article is an attempt to answer the question: Where does a classical narrative beginning end? It examines a series of epistemological concerns about the nature of beginnings before exploring two previous models that can be used to determine where a narrative beginning ends, one by Kristin Thompson that relies primarily on a narrative's formal properties, and one by James Phelan that relies primarily on cognitive processes. The article focuses primarily on the possibilities for a cognitive model for determining the end of a narrative beginning. However, ultimately, it argues that only by combining formal properties and cognitive processes can we arrive at a comprehensive and flexible model for how to determine where a classical narrative beginning ends.
Tim J. Smith
The intention of most film editing is to create the impression of continuity by editing together discontinuous viewpoints. The continuity editing rules are well established yet there exists an incomplete understanding of their cognitive foundations. This article presents the Attentional Theory of Cinematic Continuity (AToCC), which identifies the critical role visual attention plays in the perception of continuity across cuts and demonstrates how perceptual expectations can be matched across cuts without the need for a coherent representation of the depicted space. The theory explains several key elements of the continuity editing style including match-action, matchedexit/entrances, shot/reverse-shot, the 180° rule, and point-of-view editing. AToCC formalizes insights about viewer cognition that have been latent in the filmmaking community for nearly a century and demonstrates how much vision science in general can learn from film.
Assessing the Impacts of Biology and Navigational Experience
Mariah G. Schug
Spatial cognition represents one of the best-established sex differences in cognitive science. There is a pervasive tendency for males to outperform females on multiple spatial reasoning tasks. While prenatal hormones may provide a foundation for these differences, childhood experience also plays an important role. This current article examines how biological factors may interact with environmental and cultural factors. Of particular interest is the cross-cultural literature in which children’s naturalistic experiences exploring their environments can be linked to the development of spatial skills. Based on the examined research, children who gain more navigational experience tend to perform better on spatial tasks. Because boys typically have greater opportunities to explore and navigate, this difference in experience may contribute to the observed sex differences in spatial performance.
Karin Luisa Badt
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.
This article proposes that inquiry into the cognitive complexity of film editing processes could provide insight into how edits affect audiences beyond convincing them of temporal and spatial continuity. Application of two influential theories in cognitive studies of the moving image to this inquiry suggests that editors make some decisions to maximize the smooth transference of their own attention and some in response to their own embodied simulation. However, edited sequences that do not conform precisely to the principles of maximum attentional efficiency or that significantly reshape the cinematographer’s “kinematics” (Gallese and Guerra 2012) reveal other cognitive expertise at work. Sequences generated by editors’ feeling for rhythmic phrases of movement, tension, and release create unique expressive forms in film. They require artistry of a higher order, rather than following the relatively straightforward rules of continuity cutting, and may have distinctive affective or cognitive impact on audiences.
This article argues that cognitive film theory has largely overlooked the phenomenon of disgust insofar as it can be racialized, but could be developed to account for it. Critical race theory, especially in its analytic mode, has similarly failed to offer an account of racialized disgust, although some thinkers in the phenomenological tradition have analyzed related phenomena. The article proposes to reconcile these three research areas by drawing on recent work concerning disgust and arguing for its relevance to viewers’ reactions to depictions of race in film, thereby developing an improved set of diagnostic tools for the analysis of cinematic spectatorship. The method used is analytic philosophy of film. The analysis reveals that many viewers embody their sense of race through disgust reactions and that these reactions constitute crucial components regarding how they perceive and understand narrative characters in film.
Patrick Colm Hogan
Perhaps the most common activity of film critics is interpretation. However, cognitive film theorists have sometimes expressed skepticism over the value of interpretation, perhaps particularly with respect to film style. In connection with this, cognitive critics have tended to stress the function of style in facilitating the communication of narrative information. The purpose of this article is to clarify what constitutes the interpretation of style. The opening section discusses what prompts interpretation and what its main purposes are. The article then considers how style may be understood as contributing to those purposes, beyond conveying narrative information. The second section goes on to illustrate these points through an examination of Bimal Roy's Sujata. This section argues that Roy uses staging in depth and graphic matches to advance a critique of untouchability. In formulating this critique, Roy draws on culturally particular ideas from Hindu metaphysics, integrating these with visual techniques that rely on universal human interests and propensities. The analysis of Roy's film illustrates how a cognitive interpretation of style might be developed. It also suggests that cognitive and cultural analyses may be integrated in ways that are productive for our understanding and appreciation of individual works.
ARTHUR P. SHIMAMURA, ED., PSYCHOCINEMATICS: EXPLORING COGNITION AT THE MOVIES
Robert Sinnerbrink and Matthew Cipa
Daniel Yacavone, Film Worlds: A Philosophical Aesthetics of Cinema (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015), xxv + 311 pp., $30.00 (paperback). ISBN: 978-0-231-15769-8. Reviewed by Robert Sinnerbrink
Maarten Coëgnarts and Peter Kravanja, eds., Embodied Cognition and Cinema (Leuven University Press, 2015), 382 pp., P69.50 (hardback). ISBN: 978-94-6270-028-4. Reviewed by Matthew Cipa