I got the hardbound copy of the master’s thesis by two students, who conducted their study for the Master’s degree in our iDTV Lab, yesterday. I read it at a stretch last night as they, Klas Backholm and Sebastian Lindqvist, had chosen a fascinating theme.
The purpose of their study was to see whether there are differences in how people with different characteristics react to strong (violent, emotional and scary for example) film scenes. In order to find out, they showed 20 scenes from movies, documentaries and news features to about 60 persons, who started off the test by filling out the NEO Five-Factor Inventory personality test. While the viewers watched the scenes, psycho-physiological tests were conducted. The skin conductance, i.e. sweating, was measured, as was the viewers’ pulse with the help of a photopletysmograph. Backholm and Lindqvist also used video surveillance, self-reports and questionnaires in the study.
The conclusion that the guys come to, based on the questionnaires, pshycho-physiological results and self-reports on the scenes, is that emotional scenes in a film do invoke physiological effects in human beings, at least in short term. And what’s more, we react differently to programmes on television or to film scenes. One of the findings is that “nice”, caring persons (scoring high on agreeableness) tend to react physiologically stronger to television and film scenes in general. They also tend to react in a more negative manner to unpleasant scenes than persons with other personalities.
Furthermore, extrovert and social persons (scoring high on extroversion in the personality test) liked documentaries and scenes from real situations (such as sports and news) more than the other participants. And intelligent persons (scoring high on openness to experience) got frustrated with romantic and harmonic scenes. Backholm and Lindqvist suggest that these persons have a high degree of imagination and guts, and thus demand more of a film than mere romance and harmony.
Another finding in the study is that women rated romantic scenes higher than men, who tended to like scenes with eroticism, humour and violence more. This comes quite close to traditional, stereotypical roles of the sexes, where women are supposed to be into romance and men supposedly dig violence and action. And naturally, I seem to belong to the standard deviation in this matter. Last weekend, I saw a romantic comedy that my boyfriend picked out, Girl fever, and I fell asleep while watching it. The only romantic movie that has passed my test yet is Love actually.