Watching Closely: Shot Scale Influences Theory of Mind Response in Visual Narratives

Katalin Bálint, Thomas Klausch, Tibor Pólya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Theory of mind, defined as attributing intentions, feelings, and thoughts to others, is a key capacity in building mental models of narratives. Shot scale, referring to the relative size of the figure on the screen, effectively regulates theory of mind relevant visual cues carried by faces. However, research into the effect of shot scale on theory of mind responses in a narrative is almost nonexistent. The aim of the present study was to investigate the extent to which shot scale influences theory of mind responding in film viewers. Four short animated movies were annotated for average shot scale and presented in a within-subject design. Employing mixed-method data collection, participants were asked to retell the story of the films and fill in questionnaires on narrative experience. Skin conductance was also measured during exposure. Story descriptions were content analyzed for theory of mind responses. In a Poisson regression model, average shot scale predicted theory of mind response indicating that increasing spatial proximity to the character triggered higher occurrence of mental state references in participants' story descriptions. The findings elucidate how formal properties of character presentation affect an audience's mental models of a story.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-159
JournalJournal of Media Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Cite this