Trailer Brain: Neural and Behavioral Analysis of Social Issue Documentary Viewing with Low-Density EEG

Authors Jason S. Sherwin, Corinne Brenner, John S. Johnson

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Jason S. Sherwin
Corinne Brenner
John S. Johnson

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Jason S. Sherwin, Corinne Brenner, and John S. Johnson. Trailer Brain: Neural and Behavioral Analysis of Social Issue Documentary Viewing with Low-Density EEG. In 7th Workshop on Computational Models of Narrative (CMN 2016). Open Access Series in Informatics (OASIcs), Volume 53, pp. 2:1-2:21, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2016)


The effects of social issue documentaries are diverse. In particular, monetary donations and advocacy on social media are behavioral effects with public consequences. Conversely, information-seeking about an issue is potentially done in private. We designed a combined free-viewing and rapid perceptual decision-making experiment to simulate a real scenario confronted by otherwise uninformed movie-viewers, i.e., to determine what degree of support they will lend to a film based on its trailer. For a cohort of subjects with active video-streaming (e.g., Netflix) and social media accounts (e.g., Facebook), we recorded electroencephalography (EEG) and behavioral responses to trailers of social issue documentaries. We examined EEG using reliable component analysis (RCA), finding reliability within subjects across multiple viewings and across subjects within a given viewing of the same trailer. We found this reliability both over EEG captured from whole-movie viewing, as well as over 5-second movie segments. Behavioral responses following trailer viewing were not consistent from first to second viewings. Rather, support choices both tended towards extremes of support/non-support and were made faster upon second viewing. We hypothesized a relationship between reliability behavioral metrics, finding credible evidence for it in this dataset. Finally, we found that we could suitably train a naive classifier to categorize production value and narrative voice ratings given to the viewed movies from RCA-based metrics alone. In sum, our results show that EEG components during free-viewing of social issue documentary trailers can provide a useful tool to investigate viewers' neural responses during viewing, when coupled with a post hoc behavioral decision-making paradigm. The possibility of this tool being used by producers and filmmakers is also discussed.
  • EEG
  • reliable components analysis
  • machine learning
  • documentary films


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