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Psychol Sci. 2010 Jul;21(7):970-6. doi: 10.1177/0956797610372632. Epub 2010 Jun 7.

Watching film for the first time: how adult viewers interpret perceptual discontinuities in film.

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Knowledge Media Research Center, Tübingen, Germany.


Although film, television, and video play an important role in modern societies, the extent to which the similarities of cinematographic images to natural, unmediated conditions of visual experience contribute to viewers' comprehension is largely an open question. To address this question, we compared 20 inexperienced adult viewers from southern Turkey with groups of medium- and high-experienced adult viewers from the same region. In individual sessions, each participant was shown a set of 14 film clips that included a number of perceptual discontinuities typical for film. The viewers' interpretations were recorded and analyzed. The findings show that it is not the similarity to conditions of natural perception but the presence of a familiar line of action that determines the comprehensibility of films for inexperienced viewers. In the absence of such a line of action, extended prior experience is required for appropriate interpretation of cinematographic images such as those we investigated in this study.

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