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Folk Psychology for Film Critics and Scholars

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Abstract:

Film scholars, critics, filmmakers, and audiences all routinely employ intuitive, untutored "folk psychology" in viewing, interpreting, critiquing, and making films. Yet this folk psychology receives little attention in film scholarship. This article argues that film scholars ought to pay far more attention to the nature and uses of folk psychology. Turning to critical work on Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, the article demonstrates the diverse and sometimes surprising ways that folk psychology is used in criticism. From an evolutionary perspective, the article defends the critic's and audience's interests in characters as persons. It also defends folk psychology against some of its most vocal detractors, and provides some guidance into how cognitive film theorists might employ folk psychology, arguing that such employment must supplement and correct folk psychology with scientific psychology and philosophical analysis. Finally, the article argues that the application of folk psychology to films is a talent, a skill, and a sensitivity rather than a science.

Keywords: COGNITIVE FILM THEORY; CULTURAL STUDIES; FILM CHARACTERS; FILM CRITICISM; FOLK PSYCHOLOGY; PSYCHO

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/proj.2011.050203

Publication date: December 1, 2011

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