Posted on Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 by Germain Lussier
In 1995, two scientists published a report listing sixteen short film clips most likely to elicit specific emotions. There are clips for everything from amusement and anger to surprise and sadness. Scientists show these clips when they want a subject to feel a specific way in a controlled environment. And while it’s hard to crown the most “angry” movie of all time or most “surprising,” tears make sadness a bit more quantifiable. The clip that’s most often use to bring someone to tears, and can therefore be referred to as the scientifically proven “saddest movie in the world,” is Franco Zeffirelli’s 1979 film The Champ. Watch the scene, read more about the study and see what other films are part of the report after the jump.
Smithsonian Magazine (via Moviefone) wrote about the study which was conducted by psychology professor Robert W. Levenson his then graduate student James J. Gross at the University of California, Berkeley from 1988 through 1995. Working with psychology, it’s often difficult – physically or ethically – to bring someone to a specific emotion. So Levenson and Gross began a long process to try and find very specific clips they could show someone make them feel one way. From there, you can test a great many things. In the specific case of The Champ, the Smithsonian article gives the following examples:
The Champ has been used in experiments to see if depressed people are more likely to cry than non-depressed people (they aren’t). It has helped determine whether people are more likely to spend money when they are sad (they are) and whether older people are more sensitive to grief than younger people (older people did report more sadness when they watched the scene). Dutch scientists used the scene when they studied the effect of sadness on people with binge eating disorders (sadness didn’t increase eating).
If you haven’t seen The Champ, jump to below the YouTube embed to avoid spoilers.
Of course, the scene in question is the end where a young Ricky Schroder watches his father, played by Jon Voight, die in front of him. It’s below, in a longer form.
Just try watching that and not feeling bad. In fact, people pay to watch movies that make them feel like that so it’s more ethical and morally safe for scientists to show movies as opposed to other, harsher methods.
The other films that are cited by the study (which you can download and read here) are as follows:
The 16 Short Film Clips and the Emotions They Evoked:
Amusement: When Harry Met Sally and Robin Williams Live
Anger: My Bodyguard and Cry Freedom
Contentment: Footage of waves and a beach scene
Disgust: Pink Flamingos and an amputation scene
Fear: The Shining and Silence of the Lambs
Neutral: Abstract shapes and color bars
Sadness: The Champ and Bambi
Surprise: Capricorn One and Sea of Love
Do you agree with those choices? And do you think its clever or reasonable for scientists to use film clips to elicit emotions for science?