DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2022.0426 ISSN: 0962-8436

Perceptual oddities: assessing the relationship between film editing and prediction processes

Alice Drew, Salvador Soto-Faraco
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology

During film viewing, humans parse sequences of individual shots into larger narrative structures, often weaving transitions at edit points into an apparently seamless and continuous flow. Editing helps filmmakers manipulate visual transitions to induce feelings of fluency/disfluency, tension/relief, curiosity, expectation and several emotional responses. We propose that the perceptual dynamics induced by film editing can be captured by a predictive processing (PP) framework. We hypothesise that visual discontinuities at edit points produce discrepancies between anticipated and actual sensory input, leading to prediction error. Further, we propose that the magnitude of prediction error depends on the predictability of each shot within the narrative flow, and lay out an account based on conflict monitoring. We test this hypothesis in two empirical studies measuring electroencephalography (EEG) during passive viewing of film excerpts, as well as behavioural responses during an active edit detection task. We report the neural and behavioural modulations at editing boundaries across three levels of narrative depth, showing greater modulations for edits spanning less predictable, deeper narrative transitions. Overall, our contribution lays the groundwork for understanding film editing from a PP perspective.

This article is part of the theme issue ‘Art, aesthetics and predictive processing: theoretical and empirical perspectivess’.

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