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    What is the role of the film viewer? The effects of narrative comprehension and viewing task on gaze control in film

    Hutson, J.P. and Smith, Tim J. and Magliano, J.P. and Loschky, L.C. (2017) What is the role of the film viewer? The effects of narrative comprehension and viewing task on gaze control in film. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2 (1), ISSN 2365-7464.

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    Film is ubiquitous, but the processes that guide viewers' attention while viewing film narratives are poorly understood. In fact, many film theorists and practitioners disagree on whether the film stimulus (bottom-up) or the viewer (top-down) is more important in determining how we watch movies. Reading research has shown a strong connection between eye movements and comprehension, and scene perception studies have shown strong effects of viewing tasks on eye movements, but such idiosyncratic top-down control of gaze in film would be anathema to the universal control mainstream filmmakers typically aim for. Thus, in two experiments we tested whether the eye movements and comprehension relationship similarly held in a classic film example, the famous opening scene of Orson Welles' Touch of Evil (Welles & Zugsmith, Touch of Evil, 1958). Comprehension differences were compared with more volitionally controlled task-based effects on eye movements. To investigate the effects of comprehension on eye movements during film viewing, we manipulated viewers' comprehension by starting participants at different points in a film, and then tracked their eyes. Overall, the manipulation created large differences in comprehension, but only produced modest differences in eye movements. To amplify top-down effects on eye movements, a task manipulation was designed to prioritize peripheral scene features: a map task. This task manipulation created large differences in eye movements when compared to participants freely viewing the clip for comprehension. Thus, to allow for strong, volitional top-down control of eye movements in film, task manipulations need to make features that are important to narrative comprehension irrelevant to the viewing task. The evidence provided by this experimental case study suggests that filmmakers' belief in their ability to create systematic gaze behavior across viewers is confirmed, but that this does not indicate universally similar comprehension of the film narrative.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Eye tracking, Eye movements, Film perception, Film comprehension, Scene perception, Narrative comprehension, Visual attention, Inferences
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Psychological Sciences
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2018 12:40
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:38


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