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Study Finds Film Enjoyment Is Contagious 129

Hugh Pickens writes "A report from Science Daily says that scientists have proven that the presence of other people may enhance our movie-watching experiences by influencing and gradually synchronizing viewer emotional responses. This mutual mimicry also affects each participant's evaluation of the overall experience — the more in sync we are with the people around us, the more we like the movie. In a series of experiments, researchers found that people watching a film together appeared to evaluate the film within the same broad mood and another study found that synchrony of evaluations can be traced to glances at the other person during the film and adoption of the observed expressions. 'By mimicking expressions, people catch each other's moods leading to a shared emotional experience. That feels good to people and they attribute that good feeling to the quality of the movie,' said one researcher."
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Study Finds Film Enjoyment Is Contagious

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  • Ok, now it's been proven.
    But, even on /. we knew this empirically, the so called groupthink.
    • Re:Genious. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @10:11AM (#21630811) Homepage Journal

      But, even on /. we knew this empirically, the so called groupthink.
      There's groupthink on Slashdot?

      So you mean, that, like Apple may not be the greatest company on earth, 2008 may not be the year of Linux on the desktop, Vista may actually be an okay operating system, Microsoft isn't necessarily t3h 3v1l, and in Soviet Russia,
      films may not necessarily enjoy you?!

      Wow, that's just a lot to think about.
      • My brother was killed by groupthink, you insensitive clod!
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        There's groupthink on Slashdot?

        Oh god yes. Certain subjects like Apple, Linux, and MS maybe experiencing change currently, but some subjects are particularly polarised. The viewpoint forms a feedback loop, where the only comments to be moderated highly share that viewpoint, and any reasonable "devil's advocates" (as they must be called) are moderated down. When browsing, slashdotters see no opposing viewpoints, and even if they do, the posts sound so aggressively defensive that they completely alienate the

  • by OzRoy ( 602691 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @08:37AM (#21630389)
    One of my favorite comedy movies is "Flying High" (or Airplane to non Australians), but those types of movies are only really great when you see it with lots of people. On your own they are kind of lame.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Surely you can't be serious!
    • particularly with this "type" of film, the drunker you are the funnier it seems.
    • by Wah ( 30840 )
      You should see "Flying High II", it's pretty funny. They have the whole cast from the first Flying High, and it stars that guy from "Star Warp".

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by slyn ( 1111419 )
      I saw the midnight showing of Snakes on a Plane with like 10 of my friends the weekend before half of them went off to college last year.

      It was fucking awesome. Doubly so because everyone that showed up to the midnight showing knew what the movie was supposed to be (not serious).

      Everyone who I've talked to since then about the movie (who wasn't at that showing) says it sucked and was stupid, and they all have in common that they tried to watch it by themselves or with only one or two other people.
  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @08:40AM (#21630403)
    presumably the next grant they get (to continue their subsidised film-watching) will be to research if sad films make you melancholy and happy films make you happy.

    some research departments simply have too much spare money

    • So, why do you keep giving it to them?

    • presumably the next grant they get (to continue their subsidised film-watching) will be to research if sad films make you melancholy and happy films make you happy.

      Although I would find that finding just as incorrect as this one.

      I prefer watching movies by myself. I graduated from a well-known film school and while working at the film archive, I got in the habit of viewing three or four films a day. By myself, in a comfortable screening room. I try to replicate that experience at home today, but it's ha

    • by foobsr ( 693224 )
      ... the next grant they get ... will be to research if sad films make ...

      Being excellent (otherwise they would not receive grants, wouldn't they?) empirical researchers shading illuminative light into the vast darkness of cinemas, they already did something along the lines:

      '"When you're watching movies, your hormones are responding, not just your mind," said Oliver Schultheiss, a U-M psychology professor whose work will be detailed in an upcoming issue of the journal Hormones and Behavior. "This also
  • I'm one of those people who would pay extra to have an empty theatre to myself to see a movie. The last thing I want is to hear constant chatter, or see people texting on their cell phones while watching a movie. It totally takes you out of the experience.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Dachannien ( 617929 )
      One of these days, you're going to be in a theater alone and confused, wishing that the loud guy three rows back was there to explain to his friend and everyone else in a ten-foot radius the obvious thing that just happened.
      • by vodevil ( 856500 )
        The studios just need to record people watching their movies for commentary tracks. It'd save them tons of money.
    • Would you pay seat x 400 = price, to see it? If not, set your TV up at one end of the garage. Facsimily.
  • by tansey ( 238786 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @08:48AM (#21630447) Journal
    For one of our homework assignments in my data mining class, we had to come up with some interesting insights about the netflix database. One of the things I noticed was that movies rated on the weekends were significantly more likely to be rated a 1 or a 5 than during the week. My conjecture was that this is because people are more likely to watch movies with other people on the weekends and the mob mentality takes over, causing good movies to become great and bad movies to become horrible.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Or maybe the people who watch movies in the middle of the week are people who see movies as a kind of art and few movies can really live up to that. While people who watch movies in the weekends simply see them as entertainment and nearly all movies can live up to that.
      • While people who watch movies in the weekends simply see them as entertainment and nearly all movies can live up to that.
        Hence all the ratings of 1/5? Reading comprehension man, he said the reviews were polarized, not all positive.
    • ... movies rated on the weekends were significantly more likely to be rated a 1 or a 5 than during the week ... because people are more likely to watch movies with other people on the weekends and the mob mentality takes over ...

      Maybe. But weekenders are also more likely to be those who choose their movies based on advertising "promises"... which makes those viewers 1) less discriminating by nature, and 2) more liable to anger when the movie reneges on those promises.
    • Maybe people who feel strongly about a movie either way rush online to rate it, but those who don't wait for the "rate your recent returns" email from Netflix to nag them into rating the movie, which they do at work when the boss isn't looking.
  • by onion2k ( 203094 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @08:52AM (#21630473) Homepage
    The same is true of sex.

    Apparently. :(
  • by Bones3D_mac ( 324952 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @08:55AM (#21630491)
    More likely, this is a common trait in humans to improve our chances of gaining acceptance with others by attempted to sympathize with the emotional state of everyone else. It's almost a conditioned reaction. For example, how many people usually break out laughing at funerals when everyone else is all sorrow or silence? Such an act would render you an outcast even without the overhead of learned manners. It's a complete and total abstraction of the majority mood.

    It's probably the same reason why people also tend to not trust those who seem happy and smiling all the time.
    • This isn't really related to your point, but I'm reminded of a visit to my grandparents when I was about four years old. My grandfather wandered off to take a phone call, and came back into the room to announce the unexpected death of my uncle.

      I collapsed into an irresistible fit of laughter. It was just a child's nervous reaction to a sudden and bewildering change of atmosphere, but some rather surprised looks were cast in the direction of the devil-child cackling away at this joyous news of death. Which,
    • Oh, definitely. Laughter is an important bonding mechanism, that's why we're born with it.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Laughter is an important bonding mechanism, that's why we're born with it.

        I've found that laughing during bondage just gets me whipped even more.
      • ... and one more thing -- it works so well that it's been shown that laugh tracks in sitcoms make it seem more funny. That's how easily the brain can be fooled. So it's not even that important to have live humans doing it, although it may help a bit further in have it be "contagious" (it's not *really* contagious, but almost on a subconscious level one trying to fit in). I think that further goes to show how hardwired it is into us. We probably got laughter long before speech.
        • It even works on Slashdot. If a comment is marked +5 funny, I'll think it's funny too and laugh...oh...wait...

        • I had an eerie experience once, I was outside a room where a sitcom was on and I couldn't make out the dialogue but I could hear the laugh track and the ads. After every ad break, the track would start at a giggle, slowly warming up until it was roaring every few seconds. Then a blast of ads would come on and we'd be back to quiet giggles. It drove into me how forced and artificial it was. I now despise laugh tracks unless the audience is being directly addressed (like standup) when it doesn't seem so stage
    • this is a common trait in humans to improve our chances of gaining acceptance with others by attempted to sympathize with the emotional state of everyone else.

      My problem with this statement is that it implies that humans are first and foremost individual beings who are then equipped with a variety of mechanisms (such as this one) in order to bond with the rest of the human group. It's a very Western post-enlightenment view that is deeply entrenched in how we view ourselves in the context of the rest of huma
      • You have to remember, before we had spoken word among each other, reading each others emotions was probably the only way we could effectively communicate with each other. Unlike speech or written word, our emotions are universally understood no matter where on earth you go.

        Of course, the reasons leading up to the emotional result can have dramatically differing interpretations depending on one's cultural background. For example, if someone dragged off one of your family members to kill them, you might be de
    • For example, how many people usually break out laughing at funerals when everyone else is all sorrow or silence?
      Doesn't even have to be that extreme. Try laughing out loud at a really bad play. It's not my fault the actors suck, why am I the one who get a sharp elbow to the ribs? Gumby [] theatre is funny, even when unintentional.
  • Why, if what they say is true, does my girlfriend say she hates pr0n, but I like it? By now, either I should hate it, or she should love it. Which indicates that one of us must be lying. And since I'm the one forking out hard-earned bucks...

    Yippee!!! Time to haul my ass off the couch and race to the video store for that Collector's Boxed Edition of Star Whores, Do Jedis Dream of Electric Sheep.

    Thank you, Slashdot, thank you!

    • by ConanG ( 699649 )
      Maybe she doesn't care for porn because of how you treat her while watching it. I mean, my blow-up gal loves porn because I know how to treat her right! Remember to follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning and care and she'll like it a lot more!
      • It is obvious you are an experienced and caring person. I shall accept your valuable advice in the spirit in which it is intended.
  • by jez9999 ( 618189 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @09:40AM (#21630669) Homepage Journal
    In general, humans like to share in emotions with other people, which is why groups of people tend to laugh together, cry together, smile together, get angry together, etc.

    Try cheering a sports team on on your own, vs. with a group of other people, and see which feels naturally easier.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      But don't you find it annoying when there's a funny moment in a movie and the other person in the room laughs and then looks at you [1]? Some people seem to do that. Eyes on the screen at all times please - are you so shallow you need me to validate your humour?

      [1] tends to happen more at home cos it's generally a bit dark in the cinema
    • by value_added ( 719364 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @12:47PM (#21631779)
      I'm reminded of watching a movie years ago when I moved to LA. The neighbourhood I moved to was fairly well-to-do, but still had a certain pre-yuppie bohemian charm to it. These were the days before Starbucks was on every street corner. The local theatre, don't remember whether it was independent or part of a small chain, was fairly large and it was where the locals went.

      When the film began, there were the usual previews, of course, but then a lengthy ad appeared for The LA Times. The Friday night crowd burst out in a chorus of hisses and loud booing (in response to the ad, and to the LA Times), and I was only to happy to join in. If I had been in the Westwood area (where the film industry concentrated its attention at the time), the only reaction would be the munching of popcorn. The movie itself I don't remember, but what struck me about that experience was realising that not only had I moved to the "right" neighbourhood, but also that shared public experiences could me more profound and lasting than solitary ones.

      My experience was probably little different than what the ordinary folks in east Texas feel when they attend Friday services for the local religeon, high school football. By comparison, the on-line equivalent of posting emotionally-charged comments to a blog, or participating in a Slashdot flame-fest, doesn't really compare. Then again, not all things invite public participation, and not all movies should be watched in public. Local zoning and vice laws notwithstanding, I'd bet this is something that even Pee Wee Herman has learned.
  • by Gybrwe666 ( 1007849 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @09:50AM (#21630719)

    Many film critics are given films (even brand new ones) on DVD, rather than having to watch multiple films at a theater, whch is obviously more time consuming. Considering how out of touch some film critics seem to be sometimes, especially when it comes to comedies, it seems to follow that a critic watching a movie alone in his house would have a very different experience than going and seeing it in a crowded theater.

    Now film critics are starting to make more sense...

    • Now film critics are starting to make more sense... ...and don't sit near critics if you want to enjoy the film.
    • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *
      And very likely a lot of comedies would seem boring and trite if one didn't have an audience to laugh with.

      I don't think this group behaviour is exactly news, tho. In retrospect, I'm pretty sure some of my teachers knowingly used the phenomenon to get and hold the class's attention -- get a few kids to focus toward the teacher, and pretty soon the whole room follows.

    • It explains more than that. In many cities, there are also special for-critics-only pre-screenings of some films. And the critics tend to behave abominably during these: cell phones, noise, talking, getting up and walking around, talking and networking, and so on. It stands to reason that if that's the crowd environment you're in, it will color your perception of the movie.

      As for me, I went to grad school for film theory and I've seen hundreds of movies on my own, in classrooms, and in theaters. And I
  • "the presence of other people may enhance our movie-watching experiences"

    First prize for stateing the patently obvious ..
    • My google-fu is weak today, so I can't provide you references, but generally when given sets of contradictory conclusions where all sound obvious, people have no better chance than random than picking the correct 'obvious' conclusion.

      There's also a matter of to what degree the effect occurs.
  • Oh, wait! hardly anyone actually went to see it.

    Never mind.
    • It's very weird to em how this opening weekend is being treated by analysts.

      They predicted a "successful" $33 million opening weekend.

      It now looks like they're going to take in around $28 million.

      That's a "box office disaster."


      The difference between success and disaster of a $200 million dollar film is $5 million dollars in the opening weekend?
      • The difference between success and disaster of a $200 million dollar film is $5 million dollars in the opening weekend?

        Maybe the difference is how many of the analysts were called aside by their priests after Mass for a private word.
  • That could help explain it. (And the series too...)
  • ...the apparent popularity of the Lord of the Rings films - the biggest pile of overrated shite ever. People are told that they're good, so they go along with it.
    • by deniable ( 76198 )
      For the Lord of the Rings fans that gush about Peter Jackson, point them to his earlier works. Seriously. I bet none of them have seen Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles or Brain Dead. Classics of New Zealand cinema.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by owlnation ( 858981 )
        His best work in my opinion is "Forgotten Silver". That's a real masterpiece, the fact that it had a Professor at a NZ film school giving lectures on Colin McKenzie the day after broadcast is hilarious. (He should, of course, have been immediately fired)

        His real skill is in production though. The Lord of the Rings movies are an amazing production. To organize that many people, for that length of time, in a small country unused to filmmaking, takes serious talent. Try and organize a short movie yourself,
        • by deniable ( 76198 )
          I actually quite like his work. I only caught bits of Forgotten Silver when it was on TV here but he did a pretty good job of it. I have DVDs of the earlier stuff, because they are classics. You're right on production, he did Bad Taste with a tiny budget.

          My comment was aimed at the extreme Peter Jackson / Lord of the Rings fan-boys. Some of them can be a bit over the top. Showing them the earlier films makes their heads explode.
  • The missus watch The Holy Grail with us last month (and enjoyed it). If that's not proof, I don't know what is.
  • And did they do a sister study about how paying $15 a ticket and $5 for popcorn makes you love movies even more?

    Though, this would explain why I liked Star Wars Episode 1 better than Episodes 2 and 3.
  • when my friends and I went to see Mission to Mars, a film by Brian DePalma. We laughed SOOooooo hard at the absolutely ridiculous 3rd act of this film (and a bit at the simply stupid 1st and 2nd acts too), that others in the theater, who HAD to be less cynical and obnoxious than a bunch of early 20s art students, were also laughing heartily at this cinematic piece of crap by the end. Had we not been there and got the ball rolling, I wouldn't be surprised if people simply would have sat quietly, bein
    • Yea, but the last two chromosomes are missing.
      There is no good way to explain how hilarious that line was at the time.
  • This is like the time I had to explain a joke to an entire cinema. In Suburban Commando, some criminal steals Hulk Hogan's freeze ray and hits a bank. Hulk goes in to investigate and I hear Jingle Bells playing. I'm laughing at the whole white Christmas gag and my mate asks me what's funny. I tell him that it's Jingle Bells. I could hear the laughter start as people started telling their friends.

    Anyway, I tell this story better in person.
  • My god! Feeling good at the movies is a hysterical conversion disorder?!

    What will science take away from us next?!

    Quickly now! Take the children out of school and get rid of that "independent thinking" stuff they're being indoctrinated with.

    We're in a hurry here! They must be deprogrammed before Lethal Weapon 5 comes out.

    Please! It's for Mel!
    • by Bearpaw ( 13080 )

      My god! Feeling good at the movies is a hysterical conversion disorder?!

      No, but there's probably a name for the tendency to criticize people for saying something that they didn't actually say. Maybe it's something like "Spontaneous Self-Righteousness Syndrome".

      • No, but there's probably a name for the tendency to criticize people for saying something that they didn't actually say.
        Here's $5 bucks, kid. Go buy a sense of humor.
  • How could I at home be constantly pestered by cells ringing and beeping, how'd I get a sticky floor of old, dried coke or have a chance to have popcorn thrown at me? It would certainly mean a lot of effort and work to get the same movie experience I can get in a cinema.

    Why do I get the idea that this "study" has been undertaken in a desperate effort to get people back into cinemas despite horrible prices, half an hour of ads before you finally get to see the movie and an "experience" I could well live witho
  • Dear Funding Body,

    I formally request funds to study the following hypotheses:
    1. Funny things make humans laugh.
    2. Sad things make humans cry.
    3. Hot things may burn.
    4. Pain is sore.
    5. Some people will fund anything, no matter how obvious.

    In order to ensure correct scientific method, and an appropriate in depth study, our team requires one gesquillion dollars.

    Many thanks for your consideration in this matter,

    Dr I. C. Clearly
    Patently Obvious Research Labs Inc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by zotz ( 3951 )
      "Dr I. C. Clearly
      Patently Obvious Research Labs Inc.

      Dude! I think you need to build some triangulation coefficients into your funding requests and into your proposed studies.

      all the best,

    • I am sure someone have mentioned it before, but what may seem patently obvious to us may or may not be true. Scientists not only discover new things but also validate prior observations. For example, no one is really sure why yawning is contagious or why do we hiccup. This research might help us explain how politicians can whip a crowd into a fury or how a soldier will cheerfully march to his death. One interesting idea that I get from this research is to plant "actors" in the movie theaters who are told to
  • I wouldn't expect it for some protracted tortuous period piece where the guy is slowly dying, but for a mindless roller-coaster ride like Armageddon, or something stupid-funny like Jackass or American Pie, a bunch of enthusiastic people in the audience reacting to what's on the screen can really take a 2 to a 10 (the same thing happens on a real roller-coaster for that matter).

    The real surprise would have been to learn that it doesn't matter - considering that we are social creatures, after all.

  • well-known in comedy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @12:52PM (#21631839) Homepage Journal
    This phenomenon is well-known in the comedy world. If they can afford it, a comedian will oftentimes have a warmer in the crowd, who just laughs at the appropriate moments. I heard a Charlie Murphy interview where he talks about doing this for Eddie when he was starting out.
  • by The_mad_linguist ( 1019680 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @02:06PM (#21632441) [] beat the researches to it.
  • laugh track?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    When I'm watching a movie that's filled with clever jokes, I laugh at each one. My friends don't usually get them, so I'm the only one laughing. It makes me feel out of place. I need better friends.
  • Based on the other comments claiming how obvious this is, I'm starting to feel like a complete freak.

    I would pay extra to get a theater to myself. Not just because of people talking or cell phones or sticky floors etc. but because I actually prefer to be left alone when I'm watching a movie, or television etc.

    Even at home I get annoyed when my wife wants to watch TV with me. Don't get me wrong, I love spending time with my wife, I just do not feel that watching TV is a social activity. I much prefer to watc
  • This even works with one or two people. I noticed this long ago when I watched a somewhat amusing commercial I did not laugh. But then I saw it again a couple days later while watching tv with my parents and I laughed out loud as they did. I think being with others flips a state in your brain that turns on verbalization and other outward expressions.

    A slightly related phenomenon is that when one of the cleaning crew comes in to take the trash from my office I noticed that I occasionally start to verbali
  • I once attended a Raelian information session for shits & giggles. They had planted people throughout the audience whose sole purpose was to react in visibly positive ways to the information being presented. Kind of interesting.
  • Years ago I went to see the movie Static []. I can't remember much about the movie, but the opening credits involved some sequence with static noise getting louder an quieter in waves.


    Anyway, after the first few times someone giggled


    Next time someone else giggled. A few more times and everyone was trying hard not to laugh. A few more times and the whole audience was in hysterics. It was one

  • Original here [].
  • The victorians knew about this... they had things called "ripple seats" in theatres, where they'd plant stooges to laugh at the appropriate time during comedies - doing so would make the comedy funnier. Or any other emotions they wanted to heighten during the production.

    Similarly, during scary productions, they'd also have people walking around selling concessions. They'd have a squeeze bulb full of water or powder, which they'd squish at the appropriate time, startling people and making them scream out. Th
  • I'd agree with this. I remember watching "Alien vs. Predator" at the theater. Looking back, it probably wasn't THAT great of a movie. But the house was packed and everyone was there to have a good time. I remember laughing my ass off at the scene where the Predator grabs one of the Aliens by the tail and is swinging him around, smashing his head into shit etc; people were laughing and yelling, "oh hell YEAH!", "get him", "whoop his ass". I think the presence of this large group of people all laughing and ha
  • Good science looks for general principles behind similar phenomena. We already know about socially mediated pressure to respond. It's cheap, useless science that ignores general principles and instead goes after specific instances, when the known general principle makes the study trivial.
  • This is why concert and sports tickets have gone up in price so much.

    As we live our lives more and more online, as we download whatever movies we want to see or surf to one of a zillion channels, the one experience that technology can't replace is contact with other humans. Demand for tickets of all sorts is higher than ever, while the supply/demand ratio for recorded music has made selling it a waste of time.

    In the 70's, bands would go on tour to promote record sales. Now they make recordings so they can
  • I mis-moderated someone's post (meant to mod it 'Funny', mouse slipped & I ended up modding it 'Overrated'), so I'm posting to undo this mistake.

  • Really, to tag this "sheeple" seems like a pathological reaction to me. Independent thought is not the same as solipsism, and valuing the opinions of others is neither peer pressure nor fascism.

    People complain that this is what causes lynch mobs. True - without this drive to conform to others, we would not have organized wars or mobs. But nor would we have organized societies or anything, because we would most likely fight each other one-on-one instead.

    Let individualism be a conscious choice - then we can r

1 1 was a race-horse, 2 2 was 1 2. When 1 1 1 1 race, 2 2 1 1 2.