Bioethics Blogs

Your Brain on Movies: Implications for National Security

by Lindsey Grubbs
An intellectually diverse and opinionated crowd gathered recently for the most recent Neuroethics and Neuroscience in the News journal club at Emory University—“Your brain on movies: Implications for national security.” The discussion was one of the liveliest I’ve seen in the years I’ve been attending these events, which is perhaps not surprising: the talk touched on high-profile issues like neuromarketing (which is controversial enough that it has been banned in France since 2011) and military funding for neuroscience.
The seminar was led by Dr. Eric Schumacher, Associate Professor of Psychology at Georgia Tech, director of the Georgia State University/Georgia Tech Center for Advanced Brain Imaging, and principle investigator of CoNTRoL—Cognitive Neuroscience at Tech Research Laboratory. Currently, the lab investigates task-oriented cognition, as well as the relationship between film narratives and “transportation” (colloquially, the sense of “getting lost” in a story), which is a complex cognitive puzzle involving attention, memory, and emotion.
Cary Grant chased by an airplane in North by Northwest,
courtesy of Flickr user Insomnia Cured Here.
Schumacher presented his recent article, “Neural evidence that suspense narrows attentional focus,” published in Neuroscience. Subjects in the study were placed in an MRI scanner and shown film clips of suspenseful films including Alien, Blood Simple, License to Kill, and three Hitchcock films: North by Northwest, Marnie, and The Man Who Knew Too Much (I think I enrolled in the wrong studies to pay for college). The scanner revealed when suspense in the film increased, people’s gaze was focused on the film.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.