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    What would Jaws do? The tyranny of film and the relationship between gaze and higher-level narrative film comprehension

    Loschky, L.C. and Larson, A.M. and Magliano, J.P. and Smith, Tim J. (2015) What would Jaws do? The tyranny of film and the relationship between gaze and higher-level narrative film comprehension. PLoS One 10 (11), e0142474. ISSN 1932-6203.

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    Abstract

    What is the relationship between film viewers’ eye movements and their film comprehension? Typical Hollywood movies induce strong attentional synchrony—most viewers look at the same things at the same time. Thus, we asked whether film viewers’ eye movements would differ based on their understanding—the mental model hypothesis—or whether any such differences would be overwhelmed by viewers’ attentional synchrony—the tyranny of film hypothesis. To investigate this question, we manipulated the presence/absence of prior film context and measured resulting differences in film comprehension and eye movements. Viewers watched a 12-second James Bond movie clip, ending just as a critical predictive inference should be drawn that Bond’s nemesis, “Jaws,” would fall from the sky onto a circus tent. The No-context condition saw only the 12-second clip, but the Context condition also saw the preceding 2.5 minutes of the movie before seeing the critical 12-second portion. Importantly, the Context condition viewers were more likely to draw the critical inference and were more likely to perceive coherence across the entire 6 shot sequence (as shown by event segmentation), indicating greater comprehension. Viewers’ eye movements showed strong attentional synchrony in both conditions as compared to a chance level baseline, but smaller differences between conditions. Specifically, the Context condition viewers showed slightly, but significantly, greater attentional synchrony and lower cognitive load (as shown by fixation probability) during the critical first circus tent shot. Thus, overall, the results were more consistent with the tyranny of film hypothesis than the mental model hypothesis. These results suggest the need for a theory that encompasses processes from the perception to the comprehension of film.

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