Affect and Motion Pictures

  • Jesse Prinz


Emotions play at least three key roles in cinema. First, many motion pictures present highly emotional situations, involving characters who fall in love, who endure unbearable loss, and who become hell-bent on revenge. To make sense of movies, we must identify the emotions that drive their characters. Second, motion pictures seem to arouse emotions. We go to tearjerkers that make us cry, splatter films that make us writhe, and action films that keep us at the edges of our seats. Third, these emotional experiences are, ostensibly, part of cinema’s allure; we value movies that evoke strong feelings. One might summarize these three observations by saying that movie-going involves emotion attribution, arousal, and motivation. Each of these has been a domain of philosophical contestation. How are emotions attributed when experiencing a cinematic fiction? Are genuine emotions really aroused? And do emotional experiences really bring us to the box office? This discussion explores controversies along these three dimensions.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Jesse Prinz
    • 1
  1. 1.The Graduate CenterCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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