Movies offer a unique yet accessible way to understand human psychology. We often envelope ourselves within a movie, generating the same sensations, thoughts, and feelings as characters in a movie. Filmmakers have developed techniques that play on our perceptions, imagination, and emotions, and this course will discuss ways in which psychological science can help us understand how these techniques work. In particular, we will consider editing styles, storytelling, cross-cultural factors, suspense, and empathy with respect to how the mind (and brain) interprets these influences. We will also consider how movie genres, such as road movies, melodramas, Westerns, and horror movies, focus on certain aspects of human psychology. Of course, we will also watch movies and clips as discussion points and as a way to exemplify principles concerning the psychology of movies. This seminar may be used to satisfy the Social and Behavioral Sciences breadth requirement in Letters and Science.
Arthur P. Shimamura is Professor of Psychology and faculty member of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. He uses brain imaging techniques and analyses of brain-injured patients to explore the biological underpinnings of human memory and cognition. He is also interested in explorations of how we experience art. He is recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award from the UC Berkeley Division of Social Sciences, has been Scientific Advisor for the San Francisco Exploratorium Science Museum, and was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship to examine art, mind, and brain.