Photo: Hany Rizk/EyeEm/Getty Images
A few weeks ago, I agreed to see a movie Id heard nothing about. Kristen Stewart was in it; this was all I needed to know. The film was Personal Shopper, in which Stewart plays a sullenly hip assistant to an older actress, not unlike her role in Clouds of Sils Maria both movies were written and directed by Olivier Assayas. I liked Clouds, but I hated Personal Shopper. So did everyone I saw it with: my girlfriend and another couple, Caroline and Laura. (I tell you our entire viewing party was queer women only because there is no demographic more likely to give any Kristen Stewart vehicle the benefit of the doubt.) It wasnt just us, either; people around us shifted uncomfortably in their seats, and snickered at lines not meant to be funny. A scene revealing a series of incoming text messages meant to incur dread made my theater giggle, not gasp. I felt okay about whispering baffled feedback to my seatmates Im sorry, did the ghost just ride the elevator? because I could hear other peoples confused and incredulous murmurs too. It was as if our entire theater took a silent, psychic vote, and together ruled Personal Shopper very bad.
When we left the theater, I Googled reviews for the movie, and was surprised to find a pretty positive critical reception (80 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). Were we crazy not to like it? Whose taste was bad: the critics, or an entire audience at the Sunday matinee? I asked another trusted friend whod seen the movie what she thought, and she said she liked it. Then I asked her how her theater had reacted to it did they laugh? She said no. They were quiet, almost reverent. I wondered if our divergent crowds had affected our ability to enjoy the movie.
The answer, apparently, is more than you think. Weve all seen a blockbuster comedy that seemed funnier among a raucous crowd than it did upon a second rewatch at home, but this phenomenon isnt just social its biological. According to research done by psychologist Uri Hasson, movies can have a synchronizing effect on human brains. People in a theater tend to blink at the same time, and in some cases, fMRI scans revealed that viewers brains were active in the same areas, at the same times, when watching the same movie together. This unifying effect is particularly pronounced in highly cinematic films movies that make heavy use of quick cuts and camera angles meant to direct our attention, like Gravity, or Mad Max: Fury Road. Hasson admits these effects dont necessarily speak to the quality of the film, or our enjoyment of it, but they do suggest a tendency toward like-mindedness in the movie theater. A group of people watching the same movie are, after all, responding to a set of shared stimuli.
Then, too, there is the human tendency to mirror the emotions of those around us. A.J. Marsden, assistant professor of psychology at Beacon College, refers to my Personal Shopper experience as a kind of emotional contagion meaning that human beings are always transmitting our emotions to those around us, to be picked up unknowingly, and sometimes unwillingly.
If youre in a theater and everybody in there is just rolling and having a good time, chances are, those positive emotions are going to rub off on you, and youre going to enjoy it more than if you were in a quiet theater or by yourself, says Marsden. Even in a dark, ostensibly quiet room, we are constantly picking up cues from the people around us: Hearing even one quiet giggle or muffled sob can affect the way we process the movie in front of us. For my theaterful of Personal Shopper viewers, it might have been over from the first skeptical Ha! From there on out, everything was (inadvertently) hilarious.
Part of this behavior is more or less assimilationist: People want to share the popular reaction of the group around them. You want to fit in, you want to be part of the social crowd, says Marsden. You dont want to be an outsider. I tell her this sounds a lot like middle school, but she says its something closer to survivalism. In order for us to survive we have to understand what other people are thinking and feeling, she says. Its a form of empathy or emotional intelligence. In a way, its also a coping mechanism by laughing with my fellow audience members, I bonded with them, and I enjoyed our shared experience more than I would have if Id had to sit through it in silence. When I saw Deadpool a truly awful movie, I dont care what anyone says the mutual eye-rolling and sighing shared between my girlfriend and me made sitting through it tolerable.
For me, I dont think a silent, adoring theater would have been enough to save Personal Shopper a crowds reaction might supplement or enhance your own when they align, but when the two dont match up, youre more likely to leave the theater feeling contrarian or confused. If the general vibe of the group doesnt match up with how you feel or what you believe, you can actually go the other way and become very reactive against the crowd, says Marsden. Either way, you get to leave the theater feeling sure that youre right, and your taste is impeccable. How nice is that?
The Internet Isnt Making Us Dumber Its Making Us More Meta-Ignorant
Dont just fill the time change the way you think about the time.
A new study linked diet soda to stroke and dementia.
Scientists arent entirely sure why allergies make you fuzzy-headed, but they have a theory.
People with severe mental-health problems really are suffering, and it doesnt make sense to scrub the language we use to pretend they arent.
Its great for your fitness, but it has other, more surprising benefits, too.
The psychology (and biology) of watching with a crowd.
Most of the time, your nose cant detect your own body odor.
Psychologists deconstruct the power of the most popular girl in school.
The best thing I can do for my surgeons is to try to be a book of knowledge.
There seems to be a recent, nobly intentioned uptick in parents insisting children play and dress in gender-conforming ways.
It covers a lot of ground, from the best messaging approaches to how to get people to act in more energy-efficient ways.
Done right, it can actually be a pretty useful activity.
New census data shows that this trend really has grown staggeringly, but that most young people living at home are working or in school.
It can be draining. But it doesnt have to be.
A new study found our social networks can encourage us to exercise.
If you want to relate, it might be better to admit that youre a little lost, too.
A new study explores what plenty of parents already know.
In a country plagued by really poorly thought-out criminal-justice policies, this is a nice departure.
It can actually be a useful way to spend your time.
A new study found taking antidepressants when pregnant has fewer risks than previously thought.
- The Terminator Created a New Kind of Hero With Kyle Reese - Yahoo Entertainment - October 27th, 2019
- Bitcoin Might Head To The $6,000 Region In The Near-Term According to Wyckoff Logic - ZyCrypto - October 17th, 2019
- Low Tide Review: The Goonies Meets The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in Sharp Coming-of-Age Thriller - IndieWire - October 4th, 2019
- As the climate collapses, we can either stand together or perish alone - The Guardian - October 4th, 2019
- Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Trapped in the R.A.W., A Journal of My Experiences during the Great Invasion by Kaylee Bearovna by Kate Boyes - Locus Online - October 4th, 2019
- Oregon 'Hate Map' Reveals 11 Racist, Separatist Hate Groups In The State - Patch.com - August 18th, 2017
- Doomsday Desperation - Southern Poverty Law Center - August 18th, 2017
- 'American Made' Review: Tom Cruise Flies Between Comedy and Tension, Missing Both - TheWrap - August 18th, 2017
- North Korea: Nuclear War Fears Spur Sales of Preparedness Goods ... - Fortune - August 14th, 2017
- For Doomsday Preppers, the End of the World Is Good for Business - New York Times - August 13th, 2017
- Film Review: Good Time - Consequence of Sound (blog) - August 13th, 2017
- What I Learned From the Neo-Nazi in My Prison Book Club | The ... - The Marshall Project - August 11th, 2017
- Nine Inch Nails - Webster Hall, New York City - Gigs - Reviews ... - Soundblab - August 11th, 2017
- Film Review: The Glass Castle Fails on Almost Every Level - Splice Today - August 11th, 2017
- If North Korea targets Guam, how should the US respond? - Fox News - August 11th, 2017
- Naked - slantmagazine - August 10th, 2017
- Noir Thriller Wind River Examines An Ignored America - Willamette Week - August 10th, 2017
- Silicon Valley luminaries are busily preparing for when robots take ... - Mashable - August 10th, 2017
- Review: Nolan's 'Dunkirk' is as Riveting as it is Groundbreaking - First Showing (blog) - July 23rd, 2017
- Do you Have What it Takes to be a Christian Survivalist? - CBN News - July 19th, 2017
- Morning Star :: No growth but lots of opportunities | The People's Daily - Morning Star Online - July 19th, 2017
- 'War for the Planet of the Apes' Review: Finale of biblical proportions - Rappler - July 18th, 2017
- Queued Up: 'The Lego Batman Movie,' 'XX,' 'Logan,' and More - Aquarian Weekly - July 12th, 2017
- Film Review: War for the Planet of the Apes - Consequence of Sound (blog) - July 11th, 2017
- Review: Paranoia thriller It Comes At Night is impressively tense and ... - Norfolk Eastern Daily Press - July 8th, 2017
- Review: Paranoia thriller It Comes At Night is impressively tense and ineffably creepy - Norwich Evening News - July 8th, 2017
- DJ CherishTheLuv, Music Missionary - HuffPost - June 30th, 2017
- What it Means to Finish Pikes Peak + Results - Hot Rod Network - Hot Rod Network - June 29th, 2017
- 'It Comes at Night' a Spellbinding Tale of Family and Survival - Shepherd Express - June 29th, 2017
- Are you ready when disaster strikes? These Minnesota doomsday preppers are - Charleston Express - June 26th, 2017
- Are you ready when disaster strikes? These Minnesota doomsday preppers are - Arkansas News - June 25th, 2017
- Where billionaires are stockpiling land for the apocalypse: Map - The Real Deal Magazine - June 19th, 2017
- Map reveals where billionaires are stockpiling land that could be used in the apocalypse - Business Insider Nordic - June 17th, 2017
- Map reveals where billionaires are stockpiling land that could be used in the apocalypse - SFGate - June 15th, 2017
- Billionaires are stockpiling land that could be used in the apocalypse here's where they're going - The Advocate - June 15th, 2017
- Next "Far Cry" video game is set in Montana - KRTV News in Great Falls, Montana - KRTV Great Falls News - June 11th, 2017
- Veteran teaches disaster preparation skills at Heights library - The Killeen Daily Herald - June 10th, 2017
- It Comes At Night stars on survivalism, the apocalypse - WDEF News 12 - June 9th, 2017
- Recently unveiled documents reveal anarchist strand festered at Evergreen for nearly a decade - The College Fix - June 9th, 2017
- Margaret Atwood on the utopias hiding inside her dystopias and why there is no the future - Vox - June 9th, 2017
- Humanity 2.0: The Unstoppability of Singularity - HuffPost - June 8th, 2017
- Upcoming "Far Cry" video game is set in Montana - KTVQ Billings News - June 6th, 2017
- Survivalist shares experience in Harker Heights - The Killeen Daily Herald - June 5th, 2017
- Click Your Hiking Boots Together: Oz Farm Is NorCal's Eco ... - 7x7 - June 3rd, 2017
- You'll Find Far Cry 5 ProvocativeEven if It's a Mess - WIRED - June 1st, 2017
- 'Alien: Covenant' and the Nature of Horror - Film School Rejects - June 1st, 2017
- Via 'The Florida Project,' meet two of the youngest stars in Cannes Film Festival history - Los Angeles Times - June 1st, 2017
- Alien 3 is far from the worst Alien movie. In fact, it's pretty great. - Vox - Vox - May 23rd, 2017
- These Minnesota doomsday preppers are ready for disaster to strike ... - Grand Forks Herald - May 14th, 2017
- These Minnesota doomsday preppers are ready for disaster to strike ... - Duluth News Tribune - May 11th, 2017
- Are you ready when disaster strikes? These Minnesota doomsday preppers are - The Bozeman Daily Chronicle - May 9th, 2017
- Homesteading and Survivalism Living a simple life - May 6th, 2017
- On Ketamine and Added Value - E-Flux - May 6th, 2017
- A Memorial Day Festival for Colorado's Most Famous Cannibal - 5280 | The Denver Magazine - May 4th, 2017
- Learning Survival Skills - Mother Earth News - April 30th, 2017
- Seedship Review The best parts of Sci-Fi - A 90s Kid - April 30th, 2017
- Vanishing: Where Is The Music Of The Impending Apocalypse? - The Quietus - April 27th, 2017
- Community pays tribute to 102nd anniversary of Armenian Genocide - Twin Falls Times-News - April 25th, 2017
- To Sunderland owner Ellis Short - this is for you - Roker Report (blog) - April 25th, 2017
- Mitzvah-Lite: What We Miss When We Only Follow Moral Commandments - Forward - April 21st, 2017
- Conan Exiles to be released for the Xbox One in second half of 2017 - Windows Report - April 17th, 2017
- Adrienne Truscott Presents Solo 'Non-Dance', THIS at New York Live Arts - Broadway World - April 13th, 2017
- Conan Exiles is coming to Xbox One here's why you should care - Windows Central - April 13th, 2017
- A Small Step for Man: Life Frightens Without Inspiring - The Georgetown Voice - April 12th, 2017
- The Founding Fathers Of Survivalism - Survive Tomorrow - April 7th, 2017
- Brazil Really Needs Its Most Hated Politician - Bloomberg - April 7th, 2017
- Crazy In The Desert - Men's Journal - April 7th, 2017
- Bunker mentality - The Exponent Telegram (press release) (registration) - March 27th, 2017
- Coming of age after Purim - Jerusalem Post Israel News - March 23rd, 2017
- Jay Weatherill's big energy call is a survivalist fix of last resort - The Guardian - March 17th, 2017
- South London's Phobophobes Share Sinister New Music Video - Broadway World - March 10th, 2017
- One of Trump's treasury assistants is a survivalist who invented a bizarre techno-bow - The Verge - March 10th, 2017
- Wingin' It - The Portland Mercury - March 8th, 2017
- Feminist pacifism or passive-ism? - Open Democracy - March 7th, 2017
- How a mythical 'hermit' criminal hid in the woods for decades - New York Post - March 4th, 2017
- Wolf Pack 2017 - Creative Collectives Australia - March 1st, 2017
- MAGIC Fall 2017 Fashion Trend: Puffer Jackets WWD - WWD - February 28th, 2017
- Witnessing the Ghosts Of the Past and the Struggles Of the Future in Kashmir - The Wire - February 28th, 2017
- The Essential Animation Charms of 'My Life as a Zucchini' and 'The Red Turtle' - Film School Rejects - February 26th, 2017
- Green politics can save us - Drexel University The Triangle Online - February 24th, 2017