Pink Noise and the Science of Story

New research is showing science can be used to manipulate movies to appeal to viewers attention spans.

New Scientist reports it’s all about using ‘pink noise’ which is a sound frequency that can be correlated with people’s attentions spans. So the length of shots in a movie, evenly distributed can hold people’s attention spans.

A Cornell University psychology professor, James Cutting analysed 150 Hollywood films and says directors have got better and better at producing shots so that their lengths grab our attention span.
So while the science shows ‘shot-pacing’ can manipulate the attention spans of audiences, movies that do this are not always the best to watch. Cutting says some movies that had the pink noise frequency were not that great, while others with greater narrative and acting were better viewing.
If you are really keen on knowing how movies can control people’s thinking, there is a science called neurocinematics. Neurocinematic researchers say some films
have the potency to “control” viewers’ neural responses. By “control” they
mean that the sequence of neural states evoked by the movie is reliable
and predictable, without placing any aesthetic or ethical judgment as to
whether the means to such control are desirable.
While knowing the science of making stories ‘stick’ is what you might call, the Y and Z factors, the appealing X factor of movies and great stories are still about something more than manipulative mathematics.
As Cutting says narrative and acting are big influences on the movie experience.
I think we need to have ‘story ethics’ to deal with our ever increasing ability to manipulate through story telling science.
Media from film, to television, to books, magazines and music have long had the abililty to manipulate. But it is the motivation for the manipulation that is important to think about.uess
I guess we can hope that our increasingly transparent online world will ensure we know more and more about seeing the ‘puppeteers strings’ in storytelling.