Genre-typical narrative arcs in films are less appealing to lay audiences and professional film critics

Taleen Nalabandian, Molly E. Ireland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

People tend to like stimuli—ranging from human faces to text—that are prototypical, and thus easily processed. However, recent research has suggested that less typical stimuli may be preferred in creative contexts, such as fine art or music lyrics. In an archival sample of movie scripts, we tested whether genre-typicality predicted film ratings as a function of rater role (novice audience member or expert film critic). Genre-typicality was operationalized as the profile correlations between linguistic arcs (across five segments, or acts) for each script and within-genre averages. We predicted (1) that critics would prefer more disfluent (genre-atypical) films and general audiences would prefer fluent (genre-typical) films, and (2) that these differences would be most pronounced for genres expected to be more entertaining (e.g., action/adventure) than challenging (e.g., tragedy). Partly consistent with our hypotheses, the results showed that critics gave higher ratings to action/adventure films with less typical positive emotion arcs. However, regardless of audience-member or professional-critic status, higher ratings were attributed to films that were more genre-atypical (or disfluent), in terms of analytic thinking, narrative action, and emotional tone, across all genres except family/kids films. Such findings support the growing literature on the appeal of disfluency in the arts and have relevance for researchers in psychology and computer science who are interested in computational linguistic approaches to attitudes, film, and literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1636-1650
Number of pages15
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Volume51
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 15 2019

Keywords

  • Computerized text analysis
  • Film
  • Genre
  • Language
  • Prototypicality

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