What is Cognitive Film Theory

What is Cognitive Film Theory?

Film theories are largely based on the ways that films make the audience feel, how they are delivered, how they are produced. Or how they create meaningful engagements. Cognitive film theory, for example, is largely based on a focus on the experience and reaction of the audience. Specifically in relationship to the film content and the viewing experience. It’s a focus on viewer psychology. In which scholars believe that cognitive film theory is an approach that is interdisciplinary and varied unlike many other forms of film theory. 

Cognitive Film Theory Definition

Firstly, cognitive film theory represents a form of research tradition in film that originates in the 1980s. Especially from the work of various scholars including David Bordwell, Noel Caroll, Per Persson, Carl Plantiga, Greg M. Smith and others.

Additionally, the cognitive theory of film essentially emerged as the result of a reaction against the psychoanalytic-semiotic theoretical paradigm of film which, at the time, had dominated film discipline. 

Cognitive film theory states that various different elements associated with the film viewing experience can be closely connected with cognitive science and with analytic philosophy.

Cognitive film theory essentially states that films have:

  • Dedication to high standards of reasoning and evidence in media, film and cinema studies as well as in other fields.
  • Commitment to intertheoretical debate and criticism.
  • Focus on the mental activity that takes place within the audience’s brain, particularly the central object of the inquiry.
  • Acceptance of a naturalistic perspective which has been quite broadly construed.


Moreover, cognitive film theory may include loose-knit research tradition, citations and important research into the philosophy of art, experimental psychology, and neuroscience. 

Cognitive Film Theory Works

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Furthermore, among the various theorists that back cognitive film theory, there are several works that are part of the cognitive approach.

Having a focus on psychology, and the constructive criticism that takes place when accounting for perception and cognition, the orientation process includes a constructive process for developing cognitive conclusions based largely on nonconscious inferences.

Some books and literary works on cognitive film theory include:

The Takeaway

So what is cognitive film theory? A philosophical exploration of film and cinema. In which cognitivist work to perceive and comprehend the underlying impact of film and cinema on the audience’s emotions, thoughts, or behaviors. 

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