SCSMI2017 Helsinki has ended
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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Room 306 [clear filter]
Monday, June 12


LP Wyatt Moss-Wellington: A Social Narratology of Film
Limited Capacity seats available

Social narratology draws from anthropology, evolutionary biology, experimental media studies, and social psychology to catalogue notions of the “function of fiction” in human relations. This paper describes the project of social narratology using film narratives as a primary example. It extends cognitive research focused on spectator response and the moment of engagement to emphasize the sociality of media use: the way narratives facilitate and mediate the spaces between people. Social narratology considers film as a storytelling art foremost, and addresses questions regarding the humanistic and ethical functions of narrative theory.

avatar for Wyatt Moss-Wellington

Wyatt Moss-Wellington

The University of Sydney
Wyatt Moss-Wellington is a PhD candidate at The University of Sydney. He has recently published work in journals including Film International and Forum, with an article on cognitive dissonance in cinema upcoming in Projections. In 2012, he completed an MA research thesis on the cinema... Read More →

Monday June 12, 2017 09:30 - 10:30
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki


SP Keyvan Sarkhosh. What is the feel-good factor of feel-good films? Results from an online survey on the generic outlines, narrative and aesthetic properties and emotional effects of a popular movie type
Limited Capacity seats available

In film criticism, the ›feel-good film‹ is generally discredited for its allegedly cheap and manipulative emotional effects. However, the label also serves as a popular generic orientation for audiences seeking and enjoying certain films due to their ›feel-good factor‹. In my talk I will present the results from an online survey on feel-good films conducted among almost 450 participants in early 2016. I will concentrate on the affective, cognitive and emotional responses of the participants to the films in question and relate these findings to the narrative properties and aesthetic features which contribute to the emotional ›uplift‹ of the viewers.

avatar for Keyvan Sarkhosh

Keyvan Sarkhosh

Senior Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics
Keyvan Sarkhosh is a senior research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics. He obtained his PhD from the University of Vienna. The focus of his research is on the history and aesthetics of film and the relationship between high and popular culture. Recent publications... Read More →

Monday June 12, 2017 10:30 - 11:00
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki


SP Mette Hjort. Feel Good Films and Positive Emotions: Film in the Context of Health and Well-Being
Limited Capacity seats available

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
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki


SP Tico Romao. Embodiment, Cognitive Linguistics and Character Interiority: A Critique
Limited Capacity seats available

Embodied cognition has become a dominant framework within cognitive film theory. One prominent strand of embodied cognition within cognitive film theory has been the application of cognitive linguistics to issues relating to film and spectatorship (Buckland 2000; 2015; Coëgnarts and Kravanja 2012). While the approach has been applied to a range of aspects concerning narrative and film form, attention recently has turned to providing accounts of the subjective states of characters (Coëgnarts and Kravanja 2015; Oritz 2015). This paper proposes that the theoretical grounds of such applications of cognitive linguistics to film and film characters are questionable. The conceptual underpinnings of cognitive linguistics as originally put forward by Lakoff (1987) and Johnson (1987) are significantly different from more recent accounts of embodiment. It is unclear how the multimodal representations advanced by Barsalou (1999) or the mirror neurons identified by Gallese (2007) offer support for the cognitive linguistics claim that metaphor and metonymy constitute distinct forms of conceptual structure. Nor is it apparent how these differing accounts of embodiment converge with respect to how abstract thought is conceived or how situated cognition is integrated into their distinct frameworks. The paper additionally reviews critiques of cognitive linguistics by Sperber and Wilson (2008) and Papafragou (1996) that dispute the claim that metaphor and metonymy are distinct forms of conceptual structure.

 The paper will demonstrate that there are problems with the manner in which cognitive linguistics has been applied to film and the subjective states of film characters as well. Critical to the validity of this approach is the claim that filmmakers and spectators rely upon image schemata – universal conceptual structures that derive from shared bodily experience. This approach purports that not only do filmmakers draw upon image schemata when constructing narrative films and depicting subjective states of characters, but also that they underpin a spectator’s cognitive processes through their metaphoric and metonymic extension. It shall be demonstrated that such applications are too rigid and have tended to result in top down approaches to film analysis and lack the ability to account for variations in spectatorial response. The recent reboot of The Magnificent Seven (2016) will be used as a practical example to illustrate the limitations of the cognitive linguistics approach and will demonstrate that the spectatorial understanding of the subjective states of characters can be much more economically explained through a folk psychology model that highlights the spectator’s discovery of implicatures and use of inference to unpack them. The paper will conclude with a reflection upon the superiority of models of social cognition that stress situated knowledge over those models that privilege the invariant.

Indicative Bibliography:
Barsalou, Lawrence W. 1999. ‘Perceptual Symbol Systems’, Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 22:4. 577-609.
Buckland, Warren. 2000. The Cognitive Semiotics of Film. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Coëgnarts, Maarten, and Kravanja, Peter. 2015. ‘Embodied Cinematic Subjectivity: Metaphorical and Metonymical Modes of Character Perception in Film’ in Maarten Coëgnarts and Peter Kravanja (eds.) Embodied Cognition and Cinema. Leuven: Leuven University Press. 221-243.
Gallese, Vittorio. 2007. ‘Before and Below ‘Theory of Mind’: Embodied Simulation and the Neural Correlates of Social Cognition’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences. 362, 659–669 
Sperber, Deirdre, and Wilson, Dan. 2008. ‘A Deflationary Account of Metaphors’, in Raymond W. Gibbs Jr. (ed.) The Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 84-105.

avatar for Tico Romao

Tico Romao

University of Gloucestershire
Tico Romao has a BFA from Concordia University, Canada and a PhD from the University of East Anglia, with expertise in American Cinema. He has authored several publications and his research interests include cognitive film theory, the representation of social types, and action cinema... Read More →

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


LP Joerg Fingerhut and Katrin Heimann. Film and 4EA cognition. Movies as part of our artifactual mind
Limited Capacity seats available

Recent approaches in embodied, embedded, enactive, extended, and affective (4EA) cognitive science argue that mental activity is best understood as relational.  Such a science of the mind is “integrative” in the sense that the tools und cultural artifacts we engage with co-constitute the embodied relations that we can entertain. We argue that film – and more precisely edited moving images – constitutes a rather pervasive kind of such an artifact. Film therefore allows us to directly address and systematically research how artifacts alter our perceptual access and co-constitute the mental states that we entertain.

An embodied approach, on the other hand is also necessary in order to understand our intense engagement and aesthetic experience of film. We will discuss the motor involvement with camera and lense movements that we have investitgated in a series of EEG-experiment. We also will discuss experiments on cuts adhering to the 180 degree rule (continuity editing) vs. cuts violating this rule (cuts across the line) and jump cuts (visible editing) (Heimann et al. 2014, 2016, in prep). The model we suggest for such an engagement is that of an embodied seeing-in. We will compare and contrast this model with other, more phenomenological accounts of an embodied engagement with film (Sobchak, Voss). 

Based on these empirical results and by building on our previous work in this area we will argue that an embodied approach to film can deepen our understanding of the filmic medium and might provide the basis for a theory of our aesthetic engagement with it.

avatar for Joerg Fingerhut

Joerg Fingerhut

Postdoctoral Researcher, Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Berlin School of Mind and Brain. Before I did my PhD as a member of the "Collegium Picture Act & Embodiment," a joint project of art historians and philosophers. I was "Art & Neuroscience Postdoctoral Fellow” at Columbia University (2012), and... Read More →

Monday June 12, 2017 13:00 - 14:00
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki


SP Michael Grabowski. Perception and Poetics of Virtual Reality
Limited Capacity seats available

Perception and Poetics of VR: The Problem of Medium

The emerging technologies that support virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are a significant departure from the rectangular two-dimensional screen. In fact, VR is a sort of meta-medium, encompassing a range from from 360-degree recorded video to 3-D interactive games. This presentation documents the current and future uses of VR and AR, examines how the perception of VR and AR differs from cinema, and suggests a new poetics for these immersive technologies.

VR and AR have been employed to allow viewers to see real places most viewers are unlikely to visit and show other places on which humans have yet set foot, like the surface of Mars and Pluto. Beyond the real, VR can show fantasy environments using computer-generated images (CGI) and photorealistic fictions, such as Netflix’s Stranger Things. Likewise, AR supplements a naturalistic view of one’s environment with data about that environment, overlaid in visual form.

Though emerging VR genres recall the debates of early cinema as serving realist or abstract aesthetics, the perception of VR is quite different than cinema. Beyond fully enveloping the visual sense with imagery and the auditory sense with immersive sound, VR also engages the proprioceptive and vestibular senses in ways cinema cannot. Antunes (2016) has described how audio-visual stimuli are experienced on a multisensory, perceptual level. VR further approaches a full sensorium, an immersive environment that works in consort to provide a perception of the real or builds an aesthetic out of its medium characteristic that differ from perceived reality. However, notable differences exist between VR and perception of a physical environment.

Bordwell (2008) provides a useful model for studying the poetics of a medium, a tripartite approach that includes a critical examination of that medium’s aesthetics, historical examination of the development of techniques, and cognitive explanations for the perception of an aesthetic. This same model can be used to examine VR, which resembles the individualized experience of Edison’s kinescope more so than the social one of viewing the Lumière Brothers’ cinématographe. What are the common characteristics of all VR media? What conditions of attendance are required when viewing VR? How do different uses of VR stretch from passive viewers to participants in narrative construction and experience? And, what are the perceptual, affective, and cognitive effects of VR that together contribute to the poetics of the medium?

Antunes, L. (2016). The Multisensory Film Experience: A Cognitive Model of Experiental Film Aesthetics. Bristol, UK: Intellect.

Bordwell, D. (2008). Poetics of Cinema. New York: Routledge.

avatar for Michael Grabowski

Michael Grabowski

Associate Professor, Manhattan College
Keyowrds: Studio/Field Production; VR; online video aesthetics; convergence of documentary and fiction genresMichael Grabowski is an Associate Professor of Communication at Manhattan College. He is the editor of Neuroscience and Media: New Understandings and Representations (2015... Read More →

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


SP Catalin Brylla and Metter Kramer Cognitive Film Studies and Four Approaches to Documentary Film
Limited Capacity seats available

Traditionally, there has been little convergence between cognitive film theory and documentary film studies. Cognitive film scholars have largely focused on fiction films, whilst documentary scholars have deemed cognitive models too limited in that they address only the hardwired attributes of audience reception, thus hypothesizing a universal body of spectators and neglecting individual, social, cultural and historical contexts of authorship and spectatorship. The aim of this paper is to overlap these two disciplines by proposing four interrelated approaches for cognitive film studies to examine the wide spectrum of documentary forms (Brylla & Kramer, forthcoming). This will be followed by two particular case studies that illustrate the efficacy of our model: Jon Bang Carlsen’s It’s Now or Never (DK, 1996) and Brian Hill’s Pornography: The Musical (UK, 2003).

Cognitive scholars have tentatively explored documentary in relation to, amongst others, the specificity of documentary in relation to fiction (e.g. Currie, 1999; Ponech, 1999; Carroll, 2003), different modes of narrative address (e.g. Odin, 1984; Plantinga, 1997; Smith, 2007) and the spectatorial reception of documentary texts (e.g. Bondebjerg, 1994; Eitzen, 1995). Although all these texts are rigorous and constitute seminal landmarks that establish key paradigms for our endeavour, they remain largely embryonic and isolated from a larger, overarching discourse. Creating such a discourse, we argue, requires a pragmatic bricolage approach covering four areas of interest:

1. Experience, Emotion and Embodiment

As the current stage of cognitive film theory embraces empirical research within the affective and social sciences, the focus here is on on-line (moment-to-moment) processes with regards to somatic responses. Metatheoretically, this area highlights an alternative to the predominant, narrative top-down approach to filmic experience by focusing on ‘low-level features’ of film, which comprise any “physical, quantitative aspect that occurs regardless of the narrative” (Brunick et al., 2013, p. 133).

2. The Mediation of Realities

The spectator’s construction of reality is informed by the film text, but also by his/her dispositions and context constituting individual, social, cultural and historical schemas and attributes, as well as by previous knowledge about represented topics and characters – knowledge that may be paratextual or intertextual. This area addresses emotion-generation, as well as hermeneutic processes in relation to ethics and the assessment of truth claims. 

3. Character Engagement

In documentary the indexical relationship between screen characters and their status as real people may inform spectatorial engagement, since the consequences of their actions are real (Eitzen, 2005). On the other hand, documentaries that don’t use conventional plot structures may elicit momentary spectatorial experiences embodied within the film text, transcending the indexical relation between screen character and real-world referent.

4. Documentary Practice

This area can be seen as a reverse-engineering process that enables the practice-led researcher to gauge audience response to particular filmmaking choices. On a theoretical level it provides insight into the (intended) reception in relation to the production of a film. This “filmmaker-audience loop” (Plantinga 2011) describes the shared social and (folk)psychological dispositions of filmmakers and spectator, and it illuminates the popularity of certain documentary forms with particular audiences.

Deploying these four areas in a bricolage manner has the potential to examine the vast spectrum of documentaries and non-fiction texts, such as participatory documentaries, docudramas, documentary musicals, essay films, compilation films and activist web videos. Our first case study, It’s Now or Never, uses amateur actors and scripted scenes to stage a seemingly observational documentary, based on the director’s longitudinal primary research on Irish bachelors. Despite being technically a docudrama, the film’s refusal to index its fictionalised dimension produces different layers of character engagement depending on the audience’s knowledge/ignorance of Carlsen’s modus operandi, their schematic knowledge of observational documentaries, or their critical assessment of documentary-fiction hybrid forms. 

In the second case study, Pornography: The Musical, porn stars are interviewed about their profession, but they also sing their stories in stylised interludes. The constant oscillation between conventional documentary and music video unsettles not only the spectators’ schematic expectations of genre but also their expectations of fixed, stock character identities in prototypical narratives. The viewer is invited to renegotiate the relationship between the documentary image and reality by awkwardly positioning the film artefact between authorial creativity and consumerist commodity.


Bondebjerg, I. (1994). Narratives of Reality: Documentary Film and Television in a Cognitive and Pragmatic Perspective. Nordicom Review, 1, pp. 65–87.

Brunick, K. L., Cutting, J. E. and DeLong, J. E. (2013). Low-Level Features of Film: What They Are and Why We Would Be Lost Without Them. In: Shimamura, A. P. (ed.), Psychocinematics: Exploring Cognition at the Movies, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 133–148.

Brylla, C. and Kramer, M. (forthcoming). Cognitive Film Studies and Documentary. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Carroll, N. (2003). Engaging the Moving Image. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Currie, G. (1999). Visible Traces: Documentary and the Contents of Photographs. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 57 (3), pp. 285–297.

Eitzen, D. (1995). When Is a Documentary?: Documentary as a Mode of Reception. Cinema Journal, 35 (1), pp. 81–102.

Eitzen, D. (2007). Documentary’s Peculiar Appeals. In: Anderson, J. D. and Anderson, B. F. (eds.), Moving Image Theory: Ecological Considerations, Carbondale: SIU Press, pp. 183–199.

Odin, R. (1989). A Semiopragmatic Approach of the Documentary. In: Greef, W. D. and Hesling, W. (eds.), Image, Reality, Spectator: Essays on Documentary Film and Television, Leuven: Acco, pp. 90–100.

Plantinga, C. (1997). Rhetoric and Representation in Nonfiction Film. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Plantinga, C. (2011). Folk Psychology for Film Critics and Scholars. Projections, 5 (2), pp. 26–50.

Ponech, T. (1999). What is Non-fiction Cinema? Boulder: Westview Press.

Smith, G. M. (2007). The Segmenting Spectator: Documentary Structure and The Aristocrats. Projections, 1 (2), pp. 83–100.


avatar for Catalin Brylla

Catalin Brylla

Senior Lecturer in Film, University of West London
Catalin Brylla is senior lecturer in film at the University of West London. Focusing on documentary film studies, cognitive film theory, phenomenology and anthropology, his research aims for a pragmatic understanding of documentary spectatorship with regards to experience, empathy... Read More →

Monday June 12, 2017 14:30 - 15:00
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki


LP Flueckiger Barbara. Film Colors, Textures, Lights. How Color Appearance Corresponds to Characters’ Inner States
Limited Capacity seats available

The presentation Film Colors, Textures, Lights. How Color Appearance Corresponds to Characters’ Inner States will address its topic based on the significant investigation of film colors for the Timeline of Historical Film Colors and, more recently, executed in the framework of the research project FilmColors, funded by an Advanced Grant of the European Research Council.

One of the main goals of this research project is a comprehensive investigation of a large group of films from the late nineteenth century to the mid-1990s using tools in the emerging field of digital humanities. By connecting a video annotation tool with an offline database, the research team explores the corpus at a high level of detail.

In addition to exploring color schemes, contrast and harmonies through concepts in color theory from art and design, three sections of the database aim at investigating lighting, surfaces, materials and textures of the characters, objects, and environments depicted. In fact, as Anya Hurlbert (2013) has stressed, color appearance is deeply influenced by textures and surface properties.

Based on our approach of investigating aesthetic strategies of films’ applications of colors, surfaces, textures and illumination systematically within a highly defined and structured protocol, we are able to identify diachronic patterns of stylistic approaches to express and connect characters’ inner states and moods to audience’s hypothetical reactions. By such strategies, films make use of the affective and subjective potential of colors to address spectator’s sensorial reactions by creating a common affective space between diegetic characters and film viewers. The German concept of Stimmung, elaborated at the fin-de-siècle by art historian Alois Riegl and writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal, perfectly grasps this connection between subject and environment.


avatar for Barbara Flueckiger

Barbara Flueckiger

Professor / Principal Investigator, ERC Advanced Grant FilmColors and SNSF Film Colors, University of Zurich
Barbara Flueckiger has been a professor for film studies at the University of Zurich since 2007. Before her studies in film theory and history, she worked internationally as a film professional. She is the author of two text books about “Sound Design” and “Visual Effects”.Since... Read More →

Monday June 12, 2017 15:30 - 16:30
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki
Tuesday, June 13


SP Moran Ovadia, Gal Raz and Talma Hendler. 2 Sisters - 2 Neuropsychological Constellations in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia
Limited Capacity seats available

2 Sisters - 2 Neuropsychological Constellations in Lars von Trier’s MELANCHOLIA

This presentation offers a neuroaesthetic account of Lars von Trier’s apocalyptic and moving piece Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011). In light of recent evidence on the ways in which the interplay between large-scale brain networks underlies various aspects of subjectivity and selfhood and facilitates empathic experiences, we propose that Melancholia is a “neuroscientific thought experiment” (to rephrase Thomas Elsaesser, 2015) that examines, by the comparison of two mental arrays, a hypothesis regarding the manner in which we may cope with a certain state of extreme stress - the world coming to an end.

avatar for Moran Ovadia

Moran Ovadia

Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv Center for Brain Functions
Moran Ovadia is an MA student in the Film Studies Program at the Tel Aviv University Steve Tisch School of Film and Television. She completed a BFA at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem (2008); wrote and directed several short films, which have been exhibited in galleries... Read More →

Tuesday June 13, 2017 11:00 - 11:30
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki


SP Colin Burke, Lene Heiselberg, Katalin Balint and Brendan Rooney. Narration alone or accompanied by acted events in a historical documentary: Exploring cognitive effort and emotional arousal using measures of pupil dilation and skin conductance.
Limited Capacity seats available

Thirty-five participants’ pupil dilation (cognitive effort) and skin conductance (emotional arousal) responses were recorded as they viewed a documentary about historical events of Denmark. Specifically, we compare responses towards (1) scenes where the narrator recounts past events while directly talking to the camera, with (2) scenes where the narrator recounts past events while the events are acted out on screen. In this way, viewers’ mental models are constructed from only verbal information or from both verbal and visual descriptions of the past events. We predict differences in patterns of physiological responses for these different modes of presentation.

avatar for Katalin Bálint

Katalin Bálint

Assistant Professor, Tilburg University
Katalin Bálint is an assistant professor at Tilburg University (NL) in New Media Design. She was a postdoc researcher at Utrecht University (NL) and after that at University of Augsburg (DE). Her research expertise lies in the domains of psychology, film studies and communication... Read More →

Tuesday June 13, 2017 11:30 - 12:00
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki


LP Adriano D'Aloia and Ruggero Eugeni. What time is in? Subjective Perception of Time in the Audiovisual Experience
Limited Capacity seats available

What aspects of audiovisual media are responsible for the viewers' subjective perception of duration? What behavioral and neural mechanisms activated by audiovisuals are responsible for the perception of temporality? What are the functions of different styles of film editing in managing subjective time perception? This paper presents the theoretical premises and the results of the pilot phase of a research aimed at exploring the audiovisual spectator’s subjective perception of time. The methodological framework adopted for this research is that of "Neurofilmology", a method that combines theoretical research, textual analysis and experimental findings. Relying on a phenomenological approach to time consciousness and on a neurophenomenological approach to the experience of narrative time, we discuss the role of complex neural mechanisms of subjective judgments of time duration. In order to delve into these issues, we also share and discuss the first results of a laboratory experiment conducted at the Università Cattolica of Milan in cooperation with a team of neuro-psychologists.

avatar for Adriano D’Aloia

Adriano D’Aloia

Assistant professor, International Telematic University UNINETTUNO
I am an assistant professor in cinema, photography and television at the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO, Rome. I am the author of a book that combines aesthetics, Gestalt psychology and cognitive neuroscience as a model of film experience analysis. I co-curated wit... Read More →
avatar for Ruggero Eugeni

Ruggero Eugeni

Full Professor, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
I am Full Professor of Media Semiotics at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Milan). My scientific interests are focused on the living media experience, as defined both in cultural - semiotical and in phenomenological - neurocognitive terms. I'm currently studying the problem... Read More →

Tuesday June 13, 2017 13:00 - 14:00
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki


SP Hauke Meyerhoff, Frank Papenmeier and Markus Huff. Visual activity of movie clips biases time perception
Limited Capacity seats available

In this project, we studied how changes in the visual activity of movies affect the experienced duration of the observers. We asked participants to reproduce the durations of brief visual tracks from Hollywood movies (2-4s; no cuts). Besides the original track, we also tested pixelated versions of the tracks that either maintained or maximized the visual activity of the corresponding original track. In general, we observed increasing experienced durations with increasing visual activity. Also, the original tracks were experienced as longer than the matched pixelated tracks indicating that the amount of processed information is positively related to experienced duration.

avatar for Hauke Meyerhoff

Hauke Meyerhoff

Postdoctoral Researcher, Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien, Tuebingen, Germany
Hauke studied psychology at the University of Tübingen. In 2014, he finished his dissertation thesis in which he explored interactions between visual attention and the detection of animate motion in simple animations. This work was awarded with the Leibniz-Young Researcher Award... Read More →

Tuesday June 13, 2017 14:00 - 14:30
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki


SP Miriam Laura Loertscher and Christian Iseli. The Cinematic Look and the Paradox of High Frame Rates
Limited Capacity seats available

High frame rates (HFR) have raised many questions and generated controversial discussions among filmmakers and critics about the cinematic look and the potential of digital innovations. An artistic research project was conducted to test the effects of HFR on visual exploration, presence and emotional reactions. A fictional short film was shot in 96 frames per second (fps) and produced in three frame rates (24* / 48* / 96 fps, *frame rate conversions in postproduction) for a cinematic experiment. These three film versions were presented to 49 participants while their eyes were tracked. All spectators filled out a questionnaire after each film version and described their emotional and cognitive reactions. The analysis of the eyetracking results revealed a significantly higher number of fixations for the high frame rates. This result replicates an earlier experiment with test sequences in HFR. Open questions for filmmakers and for future research projects on HFR will be discussed.

avatar for Miriam Laura Loertscher

Miriam Laura Loertscher

University of Bern
Miriam Laura Loertscher studied Media, Social and Neuropsychology at the University of Bern and Cinema Studies at the University of Zurich (lic.phil.hum). Currently she is a Phd student at the Institute of Psychology at the University of Bern and a research associate at the Institute... Read More →

Tuesday June 13, 2017 14:30 - 15:00
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki


SP Kata Szita. Movies on Smartphones: The Physiological Effects of Screen Size, Physical Connection, and the Active Environment
Limited Capacity seats available

The study aims to describe whether viewing experience on small screens, interactive interfaces, and active environments (that all define smartphone spectatorship) induce different level of attention, presence-feeling, and narrative understanding. Volunteers’ physiological reactions were measured while watching short footages of an English-speaking commercial movie on two types of screens (a smartphone and a 30” screen) in an isolated and a simulated natural environment to understand how audiovisual footages, such as mobile-distributed movies and commercial videos can communicate most effectively, and how the bodily contact between the smartphone and its user affects film experience and requires potential new viewing strategies from both the consumers’ and the content producers’ side.

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Kata Szita

PhD candidate, University of Gothenburg
Kata Szita is a PhD candidate in Film Studies at the University of Gothenburg with an interest in neurocinematics, cognitive film studies, and empirical methods like eye tracking. In her PhD thesis she uses these approaches to describe the relocation of cinema onto smartphones, and... Read More →

Tuesday June 13, 2017 15:00 - 15:30
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki


SP Jussi Tarvainen, Jorma Laaksonen and Tapio Takala. Film mood and its quantitative determinants in different types of scenes
Limited Capacity seats available

In mainstream cinema, emotions – both those displayed on screen and those elicited in the viewer – are central to the film viewing experience. One way that films seek to elicit emotions in viewers is by using various stylistic devices to infuse the story they tell with an affective character or tone – in a word, a mood. But the specific storytelling strategies used to build mood in a given film scene will depend on the type of scene in question: for example, dialogue is likely to have a greater influence on the mood of a dialogue scene than of an action scene, and most exterior scenes will provide more opportunities for mood-building through elaborate camera movement than interior scenes will.

Understanding how various narrative and stylistic attributes contribute to mood in different types of film scenes would provide insight into the way films engage and affect viewers. It would also guide the development of computational methods to estimate film mood based on quantitative features that can be detected from the film’s video and audio tracks. For example, if it turned out that the valence of a dialogue scene is largely determined by the facial expressions of the characters in the scene and the contents of their dialogue, then valence-modeling efforts should focus on developing computational features to describe those aspects of the scene.

In this study, we investigated the quantitative determinants of film mood across different types of scenes. We first investigated, through a user study, whether dimensions of film mood – hedonic tone (valence), energetic arousal, and tense arousal – can be assessed directly by viewers using continuous scales. We also investigated how the mood of film scenes is influenced by four groups of narrative and stylistic attributes: the events the scene depicts, the speech it contains, its visual style, and its use of sounds.

We then created a corpus of 50 scenes from various kinds of mainstream films and classified the scenes into discrete scene types using four criteria: location (interior, exterior, and mixed-location scenes), time of day (daytime and nighttime scenes), and the prominence of dialogue (dialogue and non-dialogue scenes) and music (music and non-music scenes). We then conducted another user study in which we collected style and mood ratings for each of the 50 scenes. This allowed us to investigate whether the mood ratings differed between scene types, and how well the ratings correlated with perceptual stylistic attributes assessed by viewers and features detected computationally from the scenes. The set of computational features we tested included both so-called low-level features that describe various stylistic attributes of the scene (e.g. brightness, fastness) as well as high-level features that describe the emotional expression in the faces, dialogue, and music contained in the scene. To obtain ground-truth data for testing the computational features, we manually tracked the movement of each character in the scenes, transcribed all the spoken dialogue, and marked the segments that contained dialogue or music.

The results of the studies showed, firstly, that direct assessment of film mood is feasible: the ratings exhibited high levels of internal consistency across all three mood dimensions. The results also indicated that the influence of stylistic attributes on hedonic tone is greater in non-dialogue scenes than in dialogue scenes, whereas stylistic attributes influence energetic and tense arousal in both of these scene types. We also found the hedonic tone ratings of non-dialogue and music scenes to be distributed evenly across the entire range of values from negative to positive, while dialogue and non-music scenes had Gaussian rating distributions, suggesting that strongly negative or positive moods are more likely to be found in the absence of dialogue or the presence of music. Lastly, we discovered that across all scene types, the energetic arousal dimension was associated with two stylistic attributes, loudness and fastness, and their corresponding low-level features, while hedonic tone and tense arousal were associated with high-level features that describe the emotional expression in faces, dialogue, and music. This finding was corroborated with linear regression analysis: models constructed with high-level features performed better with hedonic tone and tense arousal, and models constructed with low-level features performed better with energetic arousal.

In all, the results show that accounting for the distinctions between scene types can provide insight into the underpinnings of film mood under different conditions. The prominence of dialogue and music appear to be particularly useful scene type classification categories in this regard. The results also indicate that state-of-the-art computational features that describe the emotional expression in faces, dialogue, and music can be used to estimate a scene’s mood in terms of hedonic tone and tense arousal across various scene types. We have made the scene assessment and annotation data as well as the computational features publicly available.

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Jussi Tarvainen

Doctoral student, Aalto University School of Science, Department of Computer Science
I'm a doctoral student at the Aalto University School of Science. In my research I study film mood from the perspective of cognitive science and computer science. I'm interested in how mood in film is created, how it is perceived by viewers, and whether it can be estimated computationally... Read More →

Tuesday June 13, 2017 16:00 - 16:30
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki


LP James Cutting: Pace and the evolution of popular film form
Limited Capacity seats available

Using a corpus analysis of 210 English-language movies, ten released every five years between 1915 and 2015, I explore a physical narratology of popular movies. In a series of empirical studies, I show that normative aspects in patterns of shot duration patterns, motion patterns, and luminance patterns – all variables that can be linked to the concept of pace – have developed slowly over the last century. The fully developed form is present in films of 1990 to 2015, but was only nascent in those of 1960 to 1995, and essentially nonexistent in those of 1915 to 1955.

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James Cutting

Susan Linn Sage Professor, Cornell University
James E. Cutting is Susan Linn Sage Professor of Psychology at Cornell University. He has published three books, the most recent of which is Impressionism and its canon (2006) and over one hundred articles on the perception of motion, space, and similar topics. His interests in the... Read More →

Tuesday June 13, 2017 16:30 - 17:30
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki
Wednesday, June 14


LP Torben Grodal. Aesthetics and emotions in animated films
Limited Capacity seats available

The talk first discusses basic techniques of visual aesthetics, abstraction, exaggeration, and complexity reduction. It then uses these techniques to analyze facial expressions, gaze direction, and body language in animated films, their emotional effects and how these expressions are afforded by brain structures in somato-sensory cortex and the tempero-parietal junction. It discusses how and why animated films are ultra-social but also have elements pertinent to animal survival mechanisms of hiding, tracking, trapping, observing, fighting and fleeing. Finally it briefly mentions the role of violation of ontological categories and the role of metaphor in cartoons.


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Torben Grodal

professor emeritus, university of copenhagen
In addition to having written books and articles on literature Torben Grodal has authored Moving Pictures. A new Theory of Genre, Feelings, and Emotions, Oxford UP 1997, Embodied Visions: Evolution, Emotion, Culture and Film Oxford UP 2009; an advanced introduction to film theory... Read More →

Wednesday June 14, 2017 09:30 - 10:30
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki


SP Claire Howlin, Guido Orgs and Staci Vicary. The Search for kinaesthetic empathy: performer acceleration, aesthetic responses and physiological arousal
Limited Capacity seats available

Recent approaches to embodied cognition have focussed on proprioceptive body-to-body transmissions of aesthetic experiences. Emphasizing that understanding of moving images comes from a direct mapping of observed physical gestures onto the audiences’ own motor repertoire, leading to a sense of motor resonance. Using video recorded dance performances this study empirically tested the assertion that aesthetic responses are based in embodied cognition, through a proprioceptive body-to-body mechanism. Aesthetic interaction was compared to performer acceleration and overall rate of visual change of the moving image, with the hypothesis that performer acceleration should be a greater predictor of aesthetic preference than visual change.

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Claire Howlin

Goldsmiths University
Claire is a doctoral researcher with the media entertainment lab at University College Dublin, with research interests in embodied cognition, the role of aesthetic experience in music interventions, and arousal responses to media entertainment. Having graduated from the music mind... Read More →

Wednesday June 14, 2017 10:30 - 11:00
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki


SP Juipi Chien. What we gain from engaging with oddities and ambiguities: Neuro-evolutionary semiotic approach to lowly arousal emotions
Limited Capacity seats available

How can we engage with odd characters in the context of human emotional evolution? This presentation seeks to define a sense of "morality" that is suitable for choosy yet motivated spectators in our times. It also discusses how we can convince our community of the strengths of our own creative approaches. All in all, the speaker argues for the significance of assimilating and leaping in our attitude (rather than constraining or sacrificing our own interests) when we are in any viewing situation that demands our collaboration with oddities, ambiguities and monstrosities. To push for such a theorization, the speaker draws on characters such as Claire and Virgil portrayed in Tornatore's The Best Offer (2013) together with recent neuroimagining findings about our lowly arousal emotions .

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Juipi Chien

Associate Professor, National Taiwan University
Juipi has been updating Ferdinand de Saussure's bloody good ideas in the contexts of aesthetics, phenomenology and current neuroscience. She seeks to introduce vibrant and unconventional approaches into our study of details found in films and paintings.

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


SP Gal Raz, Ofir Shany and Tal Gonen. We’re chained in action: A Neuroscientific Model of Motivational Empathy
Limited Capacity seats available

Recent neuroscientific evidence points to the existence of a system that specializes in the real-time evaluation of the motivational state of another individual. This system, whose center is located in the anterior cingulate gyrus, is assumingly distinct from other networks underpinning the empathy-related processes of theory-of-mind and embodied simulation. We present a model that assigns a central role to this module in motivational empathy, embed it in a larger context of embodied cognition, discuss the significance of its constrains to cinematic empathy, and present preliminary fMRI evidence that support our model.


Gal Raz

Tel Aviv University
Gal Raz (PhD.) is a new faculty at the School of Film and Television, and School of Neuroscience, Tel-Aviv University. He is currently establishing an interdisciplinary lab for immersive technologies at the Tel-Aviv Center for Brain Functions. Gal Raz has been using neuroimaging tools... Read More →

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


LP Douglas MacArthur, Javid Sadr and Aaron Taylor. Accounting for Acting: Generating and Recognizing “Reality Effects” in Film Performance
Limited Capacity seats available

Screen acting is a form of embodied and situated activity. Our research project aims to provide an account of how actors’ believe their mind and body to be creatively coordinated during a performance in the interest of achieving verisimilar effects, and how this capacity is developed through performance training. Because performances are always directed towards an audience, we also examine the apprehension of actors’ labour. Our reception study seeks to identify subjects’ criteria for making evaluative claims about a performance’s reality effects – i.e., the degree of plausibility with which an actor instantiates a character.

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Aaron Taylor

University of Lethbridge
Aaron Taylor is Associate Professor in the Department of New Media at the University of Lethbridge. His work largely revolves around film performance and spectator emotion. He is the editor of THEORIZING FILM ACTING (2012), and is currently co-editing (with Johannes Riis) a volume... Read More →

Wednesday June 14, 2017 13:00 - 14:00
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki


SP Dan Leberg. Empathy On Set: An Ethnographic Study On How Canadian Actors Think Of/With/About The Camera
Limited Capacity seats available

This presentation uses my recent ethnographic interviews with Canadian screen actors to analyze how creative training and the industrial logistics of film production enable the performing actor to solicit empathetic bonds with the camera, as a surrogate for an anticipated audience. I give special attention to on-set practices that some actors use to "befriend" the camera, to enworld themselves and their scene partners for screen-specific verisimilar performances, and to actively collaborate - metaphorically "dance" - with the camera.

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Dan Leberg

University of Amsterdam
Dan Leberg is a PhD Candidate in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. After 25 years of work as a professional stage and screen actor in Toronto, Dan’s dissertation project is a neurophenomenological theorization of screen acting. He has published on Stanley Kubrick and... Read More →

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


SP Anne Wabeke. The Antihero as 'one of ourselves'
Limited Capacity seats available

In light of the current popularity of antiheroes in both film and television, this paper will contemplate why we want to engage with antiheroes to begin with. Looking at the paradoxical attraction of antiheroes that are not only like “one of ourselves”, but also provide us with an enjoyable morally challenging experience, I will argue that the importance of the correlation between empathy and moral evaluation may be stronger than oftentimes thought.

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Anne Wabeke

University of Kent
Having completed her MA in Film Studies at the University of Kent, for which she has written a thesis on the value of empathetic engagement with fictional characters, future research will be on the spectator’s engagement with female antiheroes in complex television series.

Wednesday June 14, 2017 14:30 - 15:00
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki