Semantic, Aesthetic, and Cognitive Effects of Flashbacks in Film


Principles of narrative and intellectual editing were investigated assessing semantic, cognitive, and aesthetic consequences of flashbacks. A short narrative film was presented, either chronological or with flashbacks. In Experiment 1, the gravity of the acts committed by the actors was perceived to be more salient in the linear than in the flashback version. Aesthetic assessment did not vary as a function of linearity. In reconstructing the movie segments into the right order, the linear film condition showed a better match with the chronological ordering than the flashback condition. In Experiment 2, pupil size of the viewers, as a measure of mental load, was registered on-line. In the flashback version, mental load was heightened. In the discussion intellectual versus narrative editing, intellectual editing lost the case in the present study. Flashbacks did not enhance aesthetic judgments, and linearity emphasized the semantic features of the actors with less consumption of mental resources.

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