The second Thor movie opens in the UK later this week. Is it worth paying the extra to see Thor’s hammer in three dimensions? A soon-to-be published psychology study suggests probably not.
Brendan Rooney and Eilis Hennessy surveyed 225 cinema-goers in 2011 after they’d just watched the first Thor film either in 2D or 3D. Remarkably this is the first time that psychologists have compared people’s psychological reactions to the two film modes in the real world (previous research has all been lab based).
Those people who saw Thor in 3D found it more perceptually realistic and said they felt more focused on the film, and yet their self-reported emotional arousal during the film was no higher than those who watched in 2D, and their reports of their enjoyment of the film were also just the same as the 2D viewers. Rooney and Hennessy said this suggests film enjoyment is more about how much we are moved by a film emotionally, with perceptual realism not being so important.
If you’re headed to the multiplex this weekend to see Thor 2, it may be worth heeding the findings of this study. As the researchers concluded:
“These findings might challenge the value of increased ticket prices for 3D film when no significant difference was observed in satisfaction levels. This is particularly important in light of the claim that the commercial use of 3D effect in cinema is largely based on the assumption that the increased perceptual realism is associated with increased emotional engagement and viewer satisfaction.”
The study comes with some caveats. The data was collected from a single suburban cinema, presumably in Dublin where the researchers are based, and the results relate to only a single film, so we have to be cautious in generalising from these findings. Another thing – Thor was only converted to 3D in post-production and some critics suggest this is an inferior process compared with when films are actually shot in 3D. However Thor 2 was also converted in post production. Whatever your plans this coming weekend, have fun!
Brendan Rooney, and Eilis Hennessy (2013). Actually in the cinema: A field study comparing real 3D and 2D movie patrons’ attention, emotion and film satisfaction Media Psychology. In Press.
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Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.