Vy­ing for an au­di­ence’s lim­ited at­ten­tion

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - News -

Fancy one of those stupid sci­ence sto­ries that re­duces years of study to a few, neat, eas­ily di­gestible para­graphs? We’re happy to oblige.

A psy­chol­o­gist at Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity, has dis­cov­ered that, in re­cent years, Hol­ly­wood has got­ten much bet­ter at struc­tur­ing its shots to con­form to view­ers’ lim­ited at­ten­tion spans.

In the 1990s, re­searchers from the Uni­ver­sity of Austin ob­served the at­ten­tion spans of sub­jects as they per­formed a se­ries of tasks. Af­ter mon­key­ing around with Fourier Trans­forms, the boffins dis­cerned that at­ten­tion spans of a cer­tain length occurred at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals. (This is a bit vague, I know. But let’s not dumb it down too much.) This was dubbed I/F fluc­tu­a­tion.

The psy­chol­o­gist ex­am­ined many films re­leased be­tween 1935 and the present day, con­clud­ing that the more re­cent the pic­ture, the closer its shot length ap­prox­i­mated the length re­quired for I/F fluc­tu­a­tion. In other words, without en­tirely know­ing what they’re do­ing, mod­ern direc­tors have been tai­lor­ing their films to fit our id­i­otic at­ten­tion spans.

Lest you think, how­ever, that the trick is sim­ply to make the takes brief, the shrink ex­plains that the tech­nique in­volves en­sur­ing that shots of a “sim­i­lar length” oc­cur at reg­u­lar pat­terns through­out the film.

With a heavy heart, he an­nounced that, de­spite be­ing “just dread­ful”, Star Wars Part III: Re­venge of the Sith fol­lows the pat­tern per­fectly. Ho, hum.

Per­fect tim­ing: Re­venge of the Sith

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