The Illusion of Continuity: Active Perception and the Classical Editing System

By Berliner, Todd; Cohen, Dale J. | Journal of Film and Video, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

The Illusion of Continuity: Active Perception and the Classical Editing System


Berliner, Todd, Cohen, Dale J., Journal of Film and Video


Introduction

INTHE MOVIE THE MATRIX (1999), CHARACTERS experience a completely virtual worldcreated by sending electrical signals directly to their spinal cord and brain- that contains the sensations of the "real" world but without a corresponding physical environment. The psychology behind this scenario is essentially accurate. Our experience of the physical world exists in our brains, and a controlled stimulus can cue our brains to experience a world that is virtually physical.

Virtual realities can exist because the brain does not experience the physical environment directly. Information in the environment exists in the form of physical energy. Cells in the brain, however, communicate through the release of neurochemicals. Each of our five senses contains "receptor cells" that translate the information in the environment into the neurochemical language that the brain can understand.1 For example, specialized cells on the retina, called photoreceptors, respond to the physical energy of light by releasing neurochemicals, thereby converting the physical energy into the language of the brain. Creating a virtual world involves artificially stimulating the cells that lead to the brain in the same way that receptor cells would.

The Matrix scenario is an emblem of the cinematic experience. The sights and sounds presented in the cinema have the potential to stimulate the visual and auditory receptor cells in ways that are similar enough to those experienced in the physical world that, under specified circumstances, many of our perceptual processes2 do not distinguish between stimuli generated by the cinema and those generated by physical environments. When organized according to the principles of classical continuity editing,3 the cinema stimulates a series of cognitive processes4 that construct a coherent model of on-screen space. Indeed, the cognitive processes that generate spatial coherence for classical cinema spectators are, this article shall demonstrate, the very same cognitive processes that generate coherence for spectators in the physical world.

This article proposes a new model of how the human perceptual system extracts coherence from discontinuous cinematic images edited according to classical continuity principles. Based on the current understanding of real-world perception, our model of spatial continuity lays out the cognitive basis of classical editing conventions. Drawing on research from both film studies and perceptual psychology, this article explains how classical editing devices exploit and accommodate the cognitive processes people use to perceive the physical world.

The field of film studies has seen a variety of approaches to explaining the predominance of the classical editing system, including psychoanalytic (Mulvey, Silverman, Oudart, Dayan), semiotic and structuralist (Metz, John Carroll), auteurist (Bazin), and ideological approaches (Baudry, Heath, Zavarzadeh), and many theorists combine several different approaches. But none of this research answers the following straightforward question: if you are watching The Philadelphia Story (1940), and you see a shot of C. K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) at the front of a house, followed by a shot of a front door opening (see Figures 10 and 11), what are the cognitive processes that lead you to perceive the two depicted spaces as connected? Film textbooks, in explaining the continuity system, will note eyeline matches and other narrative and stylistic devices, but identifying continuity devices does not explain how and why the spectator perceives continuity. Our model does. It addresses a key concern of the classical continuity system that no previous scholars have addressed comprehensively: how the fundamental conventions of classical editing accommodate our perceptual and cognitive processes and stimulate the perception of continuity.

The principles of In/in Rock's inferential theory of perception, often termed "constructive perception," supply the foundation of our approach Indirect, Logic). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

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.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

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

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Illusion of Continuity: Active Perception and the Classical Editing System
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

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?

Full screen

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.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

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.