Frames of Mind

The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE, February 4, 2016 | Go to article overview

Frames of Mind


Two famous social psychology experiments have reached the silver screen. Antonio Melechi examines the relationship between the discipline and Hollywood, and the psychological reach of the cinema

In 1925, the Hollywood producer Samuel Goldwyn announced that he was about to embark on a trip to Vienna, in the hope of securing a meeting with Sigmund Freud. The motor-mouthed impresario - whose personal formula for the ideal movie was to begin with an earthquake and build to a climax - expected psychoanalysis to provide studio writers, actors and directors with a blueprint for bringing "genuine emotional motivation and suppressed desires" on to the screen, and he hoped to lure Freud, "the greatest love specialist in the world", to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with an offer of $100,000.

Sadly, Goldwyn never secured an invitation to Vienna's 19 Bergasse. Besides having little to no interest in film, Freud was deeply unhappy about the way in which his work had been bowdlerised and stripped of its sexual components by American purveyors of popular psychology. "FREUD REBUFFS GOLDWYN" lamented The New York Times, after Goldwyn's overtures were rejected.

Film and psychology were already deeply connected. When the first motion pictures were projected at the Grand Café in Paris, in 1895 by the Lumière brothers, American and European universities were equipping their psychological laboratories with a raft of instruments to study the mechanics of perception and visual recall. A decade on, the American cinema found itself at the vanguard of what an early history of film by Terry Ramsaye, A Million and One Nights, called the "simple, primitive and universal language of the pictures". A chorus of commentators began to wonder if the movie industry was becoming, in the words of the critic and novelist Francis Hackett, "the greatest instrument of popular suggestion that has ever been devised". Even more worryingly, German opponents of early cinema warned that, as one prominent psychiatrist had it, "mere habituation to the darting, convulsive, twitching images of the flickering screen slowly and surely corrodes man's mental and, ultimately, moral strength". Vertigo, insomnia and most of the symptoms associated with hysteria and neurasthenia had, apparently, already found a home in the half-light of the movie theatre.

As questions over the social and psychological impact of the cinema intensified in the early 1900s, Harvard psychologist Hugo Münsterberg (inset, right) was encouraged to give his thoughts on the medium. Having previously dismissed "the pictures" as no more than cheap entertainment, Münsterberg, at this time America's leading academic psychologist, had a change of heart. The working-class Americans whose five cents granted them admission to The Great Train Robbery (1903), the mobs of unruly youngsters who raised the roof at the knockabout comedy Catch the Kid (1907), were, he believed, engaging with a technology that had grasped the means of controlling their memories, perceptions and emotions. Film's great breakthrough was, Münsterberg contended in his 1916 book The Photoplay, to make the inner workings of the mind visible; it was a new way of thinking - about thinking.

Münsterberg's ruminations earned him an invitation to Paramount, where he would develop a series of psychological features for its "virtual motion picture university": its short-lived venture into educational releases, which was to have been a kind of Open University minus coursework and qualifications. But the major studios were not destined to maintain a lasting relationship with academic psychology. Goldwyn's promise to bring psychoanalysis to the screen was eventually made good by a raft of thrillers and dramas - such as Now, Voyager (1942), starring Bette Davis, and Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945), which provided many Americans with their first introduction to the vagaries of dream analysis and the talking cure. …

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

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
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

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

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Frames of Mind
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?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
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.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, 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." (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.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.