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The annual conference of the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image (SCSMI) welcomes you to the Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland, June 11th – 14th, 2017

SCSMI2017 Helsinki program is under construction and changes are to occur. Meanwhile you may complete your personal information with a photo and some tags, so the other attendees and speakers will get to know more of you and your interests, and vice versa.

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Monday, June 12 • 11:00 - 11:30
SP Mette Hjort. Feel Good Films and Positive Emotions: Film in the Context of Health and Well-Being

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Title: Feel-Good Films and Positive Emotions: Film in the Context of Health and Well-Being

Key words:
Standard and moral feel-good films; Health and well-being; Positive emotions; Intentional objects of emotions

Short abstract:

A distinction between moral and standard feel-good films is sketched. Differences between the intentional objects of the positive emotions targeted by these two types are underscored. The implications of these differences are explored with reference to claims by psychologists regarding feel-good films in the context of health and well-being.


The idea that engaging with visual art (including as an amateur practitioner) brings psychological benefits is widely accepted in the field of art therapy. Psychologists have drawn attention to the health benefits that are to be derived from viewing specific types of depicted content in hospital settings, as well as to the role that certain moving images can play in promoting recovery from stressful episodes. Recently scholars associated with the “Greater Good Science Center” at the University of California, Berkeley, have made claims about the likely contributions of feel-good films to human health and well-being. Much of the Center’s work focuses on positive emotions/attitudes such as compassion, kindness, and altruism, all of which are seen as critical to well-being. To date, research focusing on the benefits, in terms of health and well-being, of engaging with certain types of films is at a very early stage, although suggestive efforts have been mounted by organizations such as Medicinema in the United Kingdom, again with reference to feel-good films. The intent is to present a proposed distinction between a standard feel-good film and a moral feel-good film, a degree of realism and the cueing of kindness being core ingredients of the latter and fantasy a defining element of the former. Making reference to practices of organizations such as Medicinema and to claims by psychologists regarding positive emotions in the context of film viewing, an argument regarding the possible benefits of viewing feel-good films will be developed. The point will be to underscore the importance of distinguishing between types of feel-good films and to argue for the greater promise of moral as compared with standard feel-good films.

The research is informed by the SCSMI’s mission statement, inasmuch as it is an interdisciplinary attempt to understand a specific aspect of how moving images impact the human mind. The project’s contribution consists, in part, in bringing claims made by psychologists into the ambit of film research, for the purposes of testing their conceptual validity and developing them further.


Gaut, B. (2007). Art, Emotion and Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hjort, M. (2010). “Toward the Idea of an Ethical Feel-Good Movie.” In Lone Scherfig’s “Italian for Beginners,” 100-141. Washington & Copenhagen: University of Washington Press & Museum Tusculanum.

Johnson, J. L. & Alderson, K. G. (2008). “Therapeutic Filmmaking: An Exploratory Pilot Study.” The Arts in Psychotherapy 35.1, 11-19.

Shimamura, A. P. (2013). Psychocinematics: Exploring Cognition at the Movies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Stellar, J. E., John-Henderson, N., Anderson, C. L., Gordon, A. M., McNeil, G. D., & Keltner, D. (2015). “Positive Affect and Markers of Inflammation: Discrete Positive Emotions Predict Lower Levels of Inflammatory Cytokines. Emotion, January 19; http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo00000331: 11-19.


avatar for Mette Hjort

Mette Hjort

University of Copenhagen
Mette Hjort is Professor of Film Studies at the Department of Media, Cognition and Communication, University of Copenhagen. Her most recent publications are “What Does It Mean to Be an Ecological Filmmaker? Knut Erik Jensen’s Work as Eco-Auteur” (Projections 2016: vol. 10) and... Read More →

Monday June 12, 2017 11:00 - 11:30 EEST
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki