Moving Image Theory: Ecological Considerations

By Joseph D. Anderson; Barbara Fisher Anderson | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Part Five

Coupling of Perception and Emotion

IN THE 1990S, when cognitive film theory (remember that cognitive in the field of film studies broadly denotes an approach to film study that seeks to incorporate the findings and methods of science into the study of film) was just beginning to gain momentum, it was generally thought that such an approach could deal only with conscious and rational responses to film and that emotional or nonrational responses would be addressed far more adequately by psychoanalysis or feminism. The work that has been published since has dispelled that notion. A number of works in cognitive film theory have advanced our understanding of the role of emotion in film viewing.

In the essays that follow, Torben Grodal and Dolf Zillmann are working toward incorporating an ecological perspective into the study of film and emotion. Ecological psychology has, of course, focused on perception and action, seldom venturing into the murky waters of emotion. Yet, if we are to do justice to film theory, issues such as the viewer's engagement with fictional characters, narrative pattern, and narrative comprehension and the appeals of genres like melodrama, horror films, and comedy, where emotional responses are fundamental to our interest, must be addressed. In these two essays, Grodal and Zillmann tackle two difficult subjects: film lighting's role in the creation of mood and the diversity of emotional responses to fictional dramas.

Grodal, while still using the language and some of the concepts of cognitive science, is approaching the ecological concept of affordances in his assertion that “our visual attention is normally intimately linked with our human concerns. What we focus on is what is central to our concerns at a given moment, we cannot separate our interests and our attention.” And his consideration of film lighting is at base more ecological than it might at first appear.

Grodal points to a fundamental concern with the facilitation of information pick-up in the canonical lighting situation. He explains how the lighting techniques adopted by the Hollywood system are designed to provide “an optimum of object information” and are often combined with the presentation of objects or characters from angles that also provide optimum information. And he notes that alternate methods of lighting result in the objects, characters, or scenes being seen as expressive or theatrical—in his words, “perceived as representations under certain contingent lighting conditions.”

His analysis of the film viewer's experience of differently lighted film scenes is based upon a distinction between lighting that is natural (that is, lighting that approximates our experience with the natural world) and lighting that deviates in some way from this norm of naturalness. He is, in other words, asking whether the lighting being employed in a given film scene is ecologically valid and what effect any differences might have on the film viewer's response to the scene.

In our own work, we have found that viewers display a sensitivity to interactions between characters and objects on the screen that deviate from the laws of ecological

-149-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Moving Image Theory: Ecological Considerations
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 253

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?