Sad films can tell us a lot about ourselves

Wednesday, 3 August, 2011

Franco Zeffirelli’s 1979 tear jerker The Champ, while not warmly received by critics, has however been embraced by psychologists, who have utilised the film as a tool for assessing the impact of sadness on the behaviour of people.

The Champ has been used in experiments to see if depressed people are more likely to cry than non-depressed people (they aren’t). It has helped determine whether people are more likely to spend money when they are sad (they are) and whether older people are more sensitive to grief than younger people (older people did report more sadness when they watched the scene). Dutch scientists used the scene when they studied the effect of sadness on people with binge eating disorders (sadness didn’t increase eating).

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