Sequences in popular cinema generate inconsistent event segmentation

James E. Cutting
2019 Attention, Perception & Psychophysics  
Popular movies have an event structure that includes scenes and sequences. Scenes are fashioned to be perceived as smoothly flowing, a feature called continuity. Discontinuity is said to occur when scene (event) boundaries are crossed. This article focuses on the structure and perception of sequences that have subscenes (i.e., scene-like components) but whose boundaries, unlike those of scenes, tend to demonstrate some perceived continuity. Although the structure of sequences has been addressed
more » ... by film theory, this topic has not received psychological attention. Here, data are used from viewer judgments and physical measurements of 24 popular movies, released from 1940 to 2010. Each film was inspected for narrative shift patterns-that is, changes in location, character, or time-across shots. Sequences were determined by repeated shift types, common sound coverage, and the shorter durations of subscenes than of scenes. By these criteria, sequences have increased in movies over time. The results also show that viewer judgments of event boundaries diminish in the presence of music and of shorter and less modulated shot durations. These results fit snugly within event segmentation theory, and this categorization of movie sequences by narrative shifts can accommodate previous accounts of sequence structure.
doi:10.3758/s13414-019-01757-w pmid:31093924 pmcid:PMC6675763 fatcat:vr4vqza3zzgqdjh22lzqbrpc3i