Chapter 5Spectator’sEngagement in the Cognition of Film5.1 IntroductionFilmas a medium of communication is important primarily because of two reasons:one, it is an important art form, and two, comprehension and production of filminvolves complex cognitive processes. As an art form it has structuralcomplexities and as the embodiment of cognitive processes it shows how crucialthe structural complexities are in activating relevant cognitive structuringprinciples.
Therefore,studying the relation between film and cognition will lead us towards aholistic understanding of human cognition. This understanding will answer howcrucial the cognitive principles are in structuring schema, memory, etc. Itwill also explain how assimilation and accommodation are shaping and reshapingthe existing structural resources, which is often considered as crucial inexplaining human capacity to learn. 5.2 Film as a derived andintentional objectTostart with, we have the notion of ‘film’.
We need to ruminate what filmactually is. Interestingly, scholars prefer either to be in silence or to comeup with different types of definitions addressing different aspects of film.For the purpose of the research, film is a derived intentional object. It is’derived’ because it is not the literal presentation of the real world.
It is’intentional’ because it is directed to someone. Eventsnarrated in a film are ordered much like the way expressions are ordered inutterances. This essentially suggests that film is the collection ofaudio-visual syntagms. These syntagms are produced with certain type of communicativeintention which is crucial in layering meanings in different levels ofrepresentations in case of film.
These layers constitute the filmicrepresentation. While decoding this representation, spectator has to invokeconventionalized experiences. Often, the spectator performs inferential tasksto get hold of the intended sense of the director encoded in the film. 5.3 Film Spectatorship: The ‘conscious’and the ‘unconscious’Whatfollows then is the fact that film spectatorship is a cognitive activity whichis partly conscious and partly unconscious. Interpreting the perceptualcategories of the audio-visual stimuli and performing inferential tasks toactivate different schemes of cognition are directly guided by the variousprinciples derived from the daily experiences that the spectator has withhim/her. As an example, we can talk about the three dimensional interpretationof the audio-visual representations when they are two dimensional in reality.The gap between the percept and the concept here is bridged with certain typesof inferential behavior about which the spectator is hardly conscious.
However,being unconscious does not necessarily mean that the spectator is absorbed bythe film. In fact, spectator remains unconscious to the extent of not confusingthe boundary between the experience and one who experiences. 5.4 Film: a-modular in its natureThevery basis of Noam Chomsky’s (1957) idea of innate nature of the human brain toacquire linguistic capability gives rise to the theory that the mind isactually organized into different modules and every module is assigned with adifferent function. The claim of modularity is also supported and propagated byJerry Fodor (1980) who opines in his seminal essay, “Modularity of Mind: AnEssay on Faculty Psychology” which was published in 1983, that the human mindconsists of an array of input systems and “that the input systems constitute afamily of modules: domain-specific computational systems characterized byinformational encapsulation, high-speed, restricted access, neural specificity,and the rest.
” (Fodor, 1983) Thebasis of his hypothesis of modularity is the theory of innate language modulein human mind which was publicized by Noam Chomsky. However, it needs to bementioned that Chomsky actually went on to dissociate himself from the view ofFodor as he claimed that the central system of the brain is inscrutable. Instark contrast, Chomsky opined how the central system could be modularized.
Themost common and obvious proof of our brain being organized into various modulesis that people who suffer brain damage in certain parts of the brain canactually forget how to talk, though they have their general cognitive functionsand intelligence stay like before and such people are still capacious ofplaying chess and so on.Itneeds to be understood that the thesis of modularity (Chomsky) is not adequateenough to explain film cognition. There is no specific, encapsulated, cognitivemodule for experiencing the movements and gestures of fictional charactersprojected on a screen, nor are there specific cognitive modules for aestheticexperiences generally.Itis also evident that film as a form of communication is multi-modal. Because ofbeing a-modular, the modular theories like the one proposed by Chomsky andFodor are not capable enough to explain the cognitive processes involved in theproduction and comprehension of filmic language. In addition to this, ourcurrent understanding of human cognition has no knowledge of any cognitivemodule responsible for the processing of aesthetic experiences.
Hence, theresearch needs to traverse in some other avenue to comprehend how we cognizefilms.5.5 Coherence Theory and BlendingTheory for understanding film cognitionTodeal with this type of complexities often in cognitive linguistics, researchersprefer to distinguish everyday experience from aesthetic experience, (much likethe way metaphors are classified as primary and secondary respectively.) Theassumption behind this type of dichotomization is simple, however elegant.
Forinstance, in case of metaphor, it is often argued that primary metaphors aresituated and grounded in our daily life experiences; whereas the secondarymetaphors are experiential only through the mediation of the primary metaphor.Similar argument can also be put forward while discussing the embodiment of theaesthetic experience – which is situated and grounded in our everydayexperiences. Production and comprehension of filmic language along with its allaesthetic imports depend heavily on the experience of the daily life. Twotheories can be taken to be explanatory of the process of cognition of films bythe human mind.
These are COHERENCE THEORY which was propagated by Thagard (2000)and Kintsch and BLENDING THEORY which was propagated by Fauconnier and Turner(2002).Underthis situation explaining film comprehension seeks an in depth understanding ofthe category what we call spectator. To explain the cognitive processesassociated with the spectatorship there will be discussion about the twodifferent theories on film cognition, Coherence theory and Blending theory. Thereason why these two theories have been selected instead of one is due to thefact that Coherence theory is useful in explaining interrelation between thestructural constituents and the congruencies found among them; whereas thesignificance of Blending theory lies with those subtle cognitive processeswhich controls the inflow of commonsensical knowledge in the interpretation ofa film from the view point of a spectator. 5.
5.1Coherence TheoryPerceptualand conceptual are dialectically related: Mental contact with an object in the immediateperceptual field elicits application of concept. Analogical involves the use ofone situational template to another one.
A situation is marked as deductive,when all propositions attributed to this situation are compatible. Whenhypotheses and evidence correlate positively with one another explanatory coherencecomes into play. Attainment of desired goals and outcomes results intodeliberative coherence.Whilediscussing the problems associated with film interpretation, coherence theoryidentifies six different dimensions of coherence.
These dimensions areperceptual, conceptual, analogical, deductive, explanatory and deliberative.Study shows that these six dimensions of filmic coherence reflects theunderlying meta-coherence found in various emotions namely contentment,anxiety, happiness, surprise, sadness, anger, fear, pity, empathy or disgust.It needs to be understood how this happens.Accordingto coherence theory, perceptual and conceptual are dialectically connected -because most concepts are “given” concepts; that is, mental contact with anobject in the immediate perceptual field elicits application of a concept.Analogical coherence involves extracting a “template” from one situation andapplying it to another situation. A spectator’s ability to experiencecontinuity from scene to scene depends on analogical coherence, particularly atthe categorization point on the continuum. A situation attains deductivecoherence when all the propositions attributed to that situation arecompatible, whereas a situation fails to achieve deductive coherence whenpropositions attributed to it contradict one another.
A situation attainsexplanatory coherence when hypotheses and evidence correlate positively withone another, whereas a situation fails to achieve explanatory coherence whenhypotheses contradict one another or when a hypothesis does not account foravailable evidence. A situation achieves deliberative coherence when it matchesour desired goals and outcomes. A situation fails to achieve coherence when itcontradicts or is otherwise incompatible with our desired goals and outcomes.5.5.1.
1Spectator as per the Coherence theory Asper coherence theory, a film attains emotional coherence when the evokedemotional valences fit with a salient coherence dimension or set of dimensions.However, it is also argued that incongruent emotional stages can also construea meaningful interpretation: Local emotional incoherence produced by warringpercepts and concepts is a salient property of our experience of fictionalrepresentations in film accounting for ways we “resonate” with the story(mimesis), with the artistry behind the telling of the story (diegesis), andwith the way the story and its medium may be relevant to the world outside thetheater (realis). Fig. 5.1:Spectator from the perspective of Coherence TheoryThisalso explains the way our vision as an organ reads filmic messages under thefunctional constraints imposed by cognition.5.
5.2Blending Theory Thistheory has proven to be useful for describing various sorts of semantic andpragmatic phenomena. The fundamentals of blending theory consist of mentalspaces and the processes involved in mapping one space over other to capturethe dynamics of human thinking. Mental spaces “contain” mental models ofentities, elements, and relations of any given scenario as perceived, imagined,remembered, or otherwise understood by a speaker. Because the same scenario canbe construed in many ways, mental spaces are useful analytic devices forpartitioning incoming information about elements in the referential representation.The virtue of mental spaces is that they allow the addressee to divideinformation at the referential level into concepts relevant to differentaspects of the scenario. Blendingtheory works on the premise that the production and comprehension of signsentails the construction of a large number of simple, partial, and idealizedmental models, each occurring by means of selective attention mechanisms andworking memory. Complex human thought and understanding develops as we cobbletogether many of these simple idealized models, forming networks of mentalspaces that can give rise to what has come to be known as blended mentalspaces.
A blended mental space combines conceptual structure to create newinferences not available in the other spaces. In addition to this, blendingtheory presumes spectator’s life-world (lebenswelt) determines the “naturalattitudes” taken when allocating attention (noesis) to a piece of film (noema).This leads to an enquiry into the way different dimensions of awarenessinvolved into the very process of meaning construction.
To understand the way attention is allocatedwe need to discuss awareness from three different viewpoints, namely mediumawareness, story awareness and world awareness. 188.8.131.52Story Awareness Mode of Spectatorship Thespectators become story-aware spectators when they experience the film as afully realized realm. The viewers are thus placed in the mental condition ofbecoming story-aware more than any other modality and this is seen mostly inclassic Hollywood films.
This mode of spectatorship is attained when thespectator experiences the movie as a set of events which unfold before them asif they were themselves present in the events which they are watching on thescreen. Thenetwork which has been presented in the figure shows how the presence of thefilmed objects constructs a presentation space which is much like the groundingspace and it lurks in the background. The mental space is the means ofrepresentation in the film like the acting techniques, editing, cinematography,actors, locale, plot, cinematic devices.
It is the covert activation of thepresentation space which constructs the corresponding reference space whichactually goes on to foreground the main elements like the setting, scene, storyand characters. This is done through a series of representation-representedmappings from the covert presentation space. The cross-space mappings are inoperation in accordance to the relevance array. Thus the representation andrepresented get united in a spatial and temporal singularity. Hence theontological disparities between the spaces remain much below the threshold ofthe conscious introspection of the spectator’s mind. Theconscious experience of the spectator is represented by the virtual and blendedspaces.
The perceived actors are the characters, the perceived locale is thesetting and the plot which is perceived by the spectator gets experienced as areal event in space and time. This is known as the virtual identity blend. Thisvirtual identity gives rise to a sensory illusion by which the people think theevents are actually occurring here-and-now in opposition to the there-and then.Thismode of awareness constitutes the optimal viewing arrangement and the spectator’sexperiences are aligned to the experiences of the protagonist of the story.This viewing arrangement is maximally subjective and the spectators haveminimum self-awareness of the events which are shown onstage. Fig.
5.2: Story-awareness modeTheperceptual field is restricted to the filmed environment and the attention isallocated to the referent scene (R). However, the audience remains dimly awareof the various representational devices that constitute the presentation space(P). Spontaneous emotional reactions like flinching at a loud noise areexamples of story awareness mode.Thepeople watching the film are actually virtual selves who interact with anontologically different realm as if they were present in that realm, thoughthey are unable to influence it in any way. It is often found that the perceptual disparity leads to conceptualcoherence for the spectator who watches the film in this mode.Althoughstory-awareness is a common occurrence among spectators and is easier toattain, it can be problematic to sustain for long stretch of time. Empiricalstudies have been conducted by researchers regarding the shifting attention ofspectators and that suggests that the person with the most story-awareness canonly be in this mode for 60 seconds at a stretch, while 15 seconds is thetypical engrossment time after which subjects look away.
(Prince, 1996) Medium-awarenessand world-awareness modes keep on intruding and interrupting this mode ofawareness. The study should then traverse in the avenue of the other two modesof awareness of the spectator to have a holistic understanding of how thespectator comprehends the film and communicates with the filmic realm. Thesetwo modes are quite different from story-awareness mode.184.108.40.206Medium Awareness Mode of SpectatorshipThemain difference between the cognitive underpinnings or story-awareness mode ofspectatorship and medium-awareness mode of spectatorship is the relative statusof the presentation space which has been described before. In this case, thepresentation space is the primary influencing space to the virtual and blendedspaces.
Although there remains a link between the represented andrepresentation, the sense of virtual contrast develops in the blended spaces.This goes on to define the cognitive disposition of the people watching thefilm at that moment. It is due to the comprehension of the blend that thespectators take the film as a multi-layered aesthetic object.Here,the spectator regards the actor as characters and the setting as the locale andthese identities are not presupposed. Thus, this mode of spectatorship can bedefined as a virtual contrast blend. The network operates so that the stronglinks between the representation and the represented can be differentiated andthus enables the spectator to identify and think about the techniques of thefilmmaking process and the plot, action, etc. Fig. 5.
3:Medium-awareness modeThismode of awareness also enables the spectator to make analogical coherence viainter-textual comparisons between films. The viewing arrangement remainssubjective in this mode. In medium-awareness, the spectators delve deep intothe affective style of the movie. They can take note of the causal connectionin the sequences of the film.
In the subjective arrangement the audienceremains unaware of their involvement and hence is outside the objective scene.In the objective arrangement the audience gets placed inside the objective scene.However, a virtual contrast blend is constructed in both these instances andinterrogation of the representation-represented mappings is thus accessed.220.127.116.11World Awareness Mode of SpectatorshipInthe world-awareness mode of spectatorship, the audience utilizes the diegeticworld of the film as the reference point for reasoning about the real ornon-diegetic realm. This reference can be from the past, present or future andcan also be real or imagined on the part of the spectator.
Thecognitive network of mental spaces for this mode is made up of the presentationspace for the filmic realm and the reference space which determines the facetof another realm which is either real or envisaged.Thespectator then goes on to integrate the two spaces into a blend which can betermed as the virtual reference point space. As a result, there is acompression of the relations like identity, cause-effect and space into thescene of the film which is unfolding both in the virtual and the blendedspaces.Thereference point blends go on to create analogical links with the real orenvisaged world and thus the spectator starts having coherent deductions orhypotheses about the events. The Hindi film Aandhi, which was directed by Gulzar, was afilm which could be related to the Prime Minister of India of that time, IndiraGandhi. Fig. 5.4:World-awareness modeDistractioncan be taken as the cognitive result of allocating attention to the factivegrounding space.
In the case of world-awareness mode, the grounding spacepertains, while the remaining of the mental space gets faded in the background.It is in this particular viewing arrangement that the spectators are maximallyaware of their own being and the immediate perceptual field. The audienceactually blends the facets of the fictive and the factive world in this viewingarrangement of film.
The impulse of the mode is to relevantly unite the facetsof the immediate situation which is being shown on the screen with some othersituation which is displaced in space and time.Thus,these three modes of film spectatorship in unison provide a scheme fordescribing the conceptual, emotional, perceptual, deductive as well as thedeliberative dispositions of the audience while they endeavor to make sense ofthe film which they see. These modes represent the relationship among the realmof the story which is being told, the medium through which the story isportrayed and the realm which lies outside.5.6 ConclusionThus,it can be comprehended that the cognition of films is a very complex processwhich needs the involvement of many features on the part of the mind. There canbe no experimental proof to the functions of the mind which are involved in thecognition of films.
However, it is possible to try and comprehendthe process theoretically making use of the frameworks which can be drawn fromthe discourse of cognitive linguistics. Much advancement has been made over theyears in this field in recent past and this thesis attempts to contribute insome way to the endeavor of deciphering the complex processes involved in thecognition of films. Thereobviously remains further scope for research in this field as the cinematictechniques are improving with time and 3D films have become a rage all over theworld. Even 7D films are at their stage of infancy.
It can be expected that inthe upcoming years, film will become the power powerful form of communicationacross the globe surmounting the cultural barriers of communities and nations.Thethesis has amalgamated the various theories, views and opinions regarding thematter and has tried to advance toward a holistic understanding of cinema as alanguage, the frameworks of cognition of films and the complications regardingcognition which are involved and the other ways in which people make sense offilms which they see on the screen. Absence of experimental support andabundance of theoretical speculations made in this thesis, in fact, shows thedegree and nature of complexity involved in the cognizing of film.