It is impossible to look into another human face and not be taken in by the expression on it. Looking at another persons face automatically effects your own feelings. This phenomenon is recognizable even when the other face is simply an image such as in media. Scientists have been mapping the part of the brain responsible for empathy so this has been a popular topic in the grand narrative for quite some time now, popping up in news stories and mainstream media over the past decade. All the three educational domains: philosophy, science and art have been describing various formulae which try to breakdown the range of complex human emotions into their basic component subsets such as joy/sadness/fear or surprise/disgust/anger. Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion is used in psychology to map complexity in feelings, and in film to describe the types of feelings generated from particular color schemes.
Intentionally disregarding something because it feels wrong is a reaction to a stimulus. It proves that the viewer has been effected. Many times, one looks away from an image because they wish to ignore the feelings that come with it. Other times, viewers may be completely captivated by the images unaware of its effect, while still others require concentration to control their own feelings with various levels of awareness of such an effort even being applied at all. All of these conditions are evidence to the fact that a visual representation of another’s expression has an effect upon our own. This was nicely defined in a scientific paper and labeled the “Third Person Effect,” by W. Phillips Davison in 1983.
The belief that “media may effect others but I, myself am immune to it” has been further explored in psychological journals and advertising executives up into the present. This project sets out to make the third person effect obvious to the viewer so that they may explore their own attachments to media.
This project contains a two-fold objective. First, to demonstrate the relationship between an expression and its immediate, explicit, and visceral effect upon the viewer. Second, to see if an abstract narrative could be sustained across a discontinuous, associative montage by juxtaposing these different feelings together.
A consistent methodology was developed for creating tableaux. Each individual tableau contains a particular emotional state such as joy, discomfort, confusion, longing, exasperation, etc. The process of generating the media for this project involved a four-step process:
1. Choosing video clips from easily accessible mainstream media that contains close-ups of recognizable people with well expressed facial emotional states
2. Highlighting the expression of the subjects or actors, using typical matte work techniques (such as a mask in AfterEffects), simple 2D animation techniques such as copying, looping and cropping
3. Adding special effects and color effects to generate digital media as high resolution
4. Creating a soundscape which highlights the emotion in a cinematic fashion.
These tableaux were then cut together, intentionally breaking filmic continuity, to keep any one particular feeling from developing into its own complete story. The abrupt cutting adds emphasis and strangeness to the succeeding clip presently being viewed.
After many tableaux were made, two of them were juxtaposed in an experiment to see if the result would be stronger or weaker emotionally. If the two clips went together well another tableau would be added to the line in the same spirit of experimentation. The criteria was that the cut between any two tableaux must break continuity, but they still must be strung together in such a way as to create an overtonal montage which would, in turn, juxtapose these emotional states causing the viewer to associate two or more of these emotions together. The result is an automatically created soft story: an abstract narrative or a non-narrative.
It is the duty of a film-maker to captivate the viewer. In much the same way Aristotle taught about reaching one’s audience, a film-maker uses visual language (and sound) to persuade theirs. Although the vast majority of motion pictures and contemporary media adhere to a certain format, the effectiveness of their persuasion seems to have no formula. By using just the part of close-up shots where the actors are in between words, I was able to isolate expression in the midst of a change, or I was able to isolate certain feelings and bring them out sometimes regardless of the actors intentions, script or words being spoken. Afterwards, using typical and industrial techniques from Foley work (sound design for film) the expression being displayed would be solidified into a more definite feeling, albeit a cinematic one. Animators use these technique so that their hand-drawn characters come to life. Directors of Photography use it in their soft-sell advertisements to convey feelings of warmth. Actors use it to dynamically manipulate their audience into suspending their disbelief.
Viewers who watch casually may have some memory of the images they viewed later, or they may not. The feeling that they receive, however, through empathic relationship to the image of a human face will last longer than the memory of that visual image. The strength of the change that takes place in the viewer depends upon the amount of conscious awareness the viewer has of this process taking place. If perhaps one viewer is completely enthralled, then the emotional state of the image is subjectively transferred to her completely. If another viewer is aware that he is empathizing with the expression of that image, the amount of change is the viewer’s mind will be less. When a viewer exerts energy to dispel or ignore that expression, the effect is lesser still. Emotional states are communicated through the eyes, eyebrows and shape of the mouth. The reaction to another’s facial expression through empathy is automatic. Considering the case where an audience is enjoying the show, and the strength of emotional conveyance is at a maximum, an abstract emotional quality can be intentionally placed upon them for effect.
Babies Making Funny Faces – If You Laugh You Lose. Funny Babies’s Life: YouTube channel. retrieved 9 December 2022: https://youtube.com/watch?v=Mr9BGjofmtw&si=EnSIkaIECMiOmarE&t=56
Dafoe, Willem and Robert Pattinson. (2019). The Lighthouse [Film]. A24: New York.
Davison, W. Phillips. 1983. The third-person effect in communication. Public Opinion Quarterly 47:1–15. DOI: 10.1086/268763
Johansson, Scarlett. (1995). Famous Celebrities First Auditions !! Steamy: YouTube channel. Retrieved 26 December 2022: https://youtube.com/watch?v=aRh170rIfIc&si=EnSIkaIECMiOmarE&t=72
Jones, Davy. (1965). Davy Jones – Monkees Audition. Drefooty Studios: YouTube channel. Retrieved 26 December 2022: https://youtube.com/watch?v=3UdcNZqpZO4&si=EnSIkaIECMiOmarE&t=122
McAdams, Rachel. (2004). Rachel McAdams Audition Tape. Lookforalaugh: YouTube channel. Retrieved 26 December 2022: https://youtube.com/watch?v=_XfUUYK7Gkg&si=EnSIkaIECMiOmarE&t=155
Plutchik, R. (1994). The psychology and biology of emotion. New York: HarperCollins.
Renee, V. Red Hot & Feeling Blue: An Exploration into the Psychology of Color in Film. April 14, 2016.
Retrived March 6, 2023. https://nofilmschool.com/2016/04/red-hot-feeling-blue-exploration-psychology- color-film
Tsfati, Yariv. Third-Person Effect, 23 February 2011. DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0082
Wurtzbach, Pia. (2015). MISS UNIVERSE 2015 – Crowning Moment – Pageant Biggest Mistake Ever. HD. yeyo panama: YouTube channel. Retrieved 9 December 2022: https://youtube.com/watch? v=Su3FVsxlNWc&si=EnSIkaIECMiOmarE&t=231