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Emotional Thrills From A Movie (or a Book)

girlThe action and intensity of The Dark Knight increased the heart rate and blood pressure of most viewers.

The physiological response from the sharing of other people’s emotions in movies has been shown to depend on the fact that the same brain regions are activated in the observers when they feel an emotion as when they see someone else experience a similar emotion.

We all know, however, that reading a book describing a high-powered action scene can be similarly gripping.

This week, in a paper published in the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE, Mbemba Jabbi, Jojanneke Bastiaansen and Christian Keysers explain the response.

At the NeuroImaging Center of the University Medical Center Groningen of the University of Groningen (the Netherlands), Jabbi and colleagues compared what happens in our brains when we view the facial expressions of other people with the brain activity as we read about emotional experiences.

“We placed our participants in an fMRI scanner to measure their brain activity while we first showed our subject short 3s movie clips of an actor sipping from a cup and then looking disgusted,” said Christian Keysers.

“Later on, we asked them to read and imagine short emotional scenarios; for instance, walking along a street, bumping into a reeking, drunken man, who then starts to retch, and realizing that some of his vomit had ended up in your own mouth. Finally, we measured their brain activity while the participants tasted unpleasant solutions in the scanner.”

“Our striking result,” said Keysers, “is that in all three cases, the same location of the anterior insula lit up. The anterior insula is the part of the brain that is the heart of our feeling of disgust. Patients who have damage to the insula, because of a brain infection for instance, lose this capacity to feel disgusted. If you give them sour milk, they would drink it happily and say it tastes like soda.”

Prof. Keysers continued, “What this means is that whether we see a movie or read a story, the same thing happens: we activate our bodily representations of what it feels like to be disgusted– and that is why reading a book and viewing a movie can both make us feel as if we literally feel what the protagonist is going through.”

In a world that is increasingly dominated by visual media, added Keysers, this finding is good news for the written media, in particular: reading a good book or an exciting newspaper article really can feel as emotionally vivid as watching a movie.

Source: Public Library of Science

Emotional Thrills From A Movie (or a Book)

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Emotional Thrills From A Movie (or a Book). Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2008/08/13/emotional-thrills-from-a-movie-or-a-book/2746.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.