Finding Meaning in All the Right Places: A Novel Measurement of Dramatic Structure in Film and Television Narratives

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Coleman, David ; Romao, Tico J ; Villamin, Cedric ; Sinnett, Scott ; Jakobsen, Tanya ; Kingstone, Alan

This article summarizes an evidence-based study that adapts a breakpoint approach to investigate how elements of television narratives (two half-hour episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: “Lamb to the Slaughter” and “The Case of Mr. Pelham”) were considered meaningful to viewers. Actions considered meaningful were found to be high in informational and emotional content, and primarily consisted of plot points where changes in narrative direction and protagonist's goals were perceived as interpretively salient. Viewers also registered as meaningful those scenes that were character centered and provided subjective access to the main characters. The article reviews segmentation behavior in the relevant film theory literature to contextualize study, and concludes by summarizing other potential applications of an adapted breakpoint approach beyond the investigation of dramatic structure.
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