Revisiting the Kuleshov Effect with First-Time Viewers

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Abstract

Researchers have recently suggested that historically mixed findings in studies of the Kuleshov effect (a classic film editing–related phenomenon whereby meaning is extracted from the interaction of sequential camera shots) might reflect differences in the relative sophistication of early versus modern cinema audiences. Relative to experienced audiences, first-time film viewers might be less predisposed and/or able to forge the required conceptual and perceptual links between the edited shots in order to demonstrate the effect. This article recreates the conditions that traditionally elicit this effect (whereby a neutral face comes to be perceived as expressive after being juxtaposed with independent images: a bowl of soup, a gravestone, a child playing) to directly compare “continuity” perception in first-time and more experienced film viewers. Results confirm the presence of the Kuleshov effect for experienced viewers (explicitly only in the sadness condition) but not the first-time viewers, who failed to perceive continuity between the shots.

Contributor Notes

Sermin Ildirar is a Marie S. Curie postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London. She studied film and media studies at Istanbul University and the University of Vienna, and she has worked at the Knowledge Media Research Center in Tübingen, Germany. She is currently investigating the role of cinematic features on the cognitive processes of both adult and infant viewers. She has articles published in Psychological Science and the British Journal of Psychology. She is also the director of several short movies and co-scriptwriter of a feature movie and a computer game. E-mail: ildirarsermin@gmail.com

Louise Ewing is a lecturer at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. She studied psychology at the University of Western Australia. Her research focuses on face and person perception. She has articles published in Perception, Vision Research, and the Journal of Experimental Psychology. E-mail: l.ewing@uea.ac.uk

Projections

The Journal for Movies and Mind

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