Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Computer scientists show what makes movie lines memorable

Date:
May 8, 2012
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
Researchers who applied computer analysis to a database of movie scripts think they may have found the secret to a memorable movie line - use familiar sentence structure but incorporate distinctive words or phrases, and make general statements that could apply elsewhere.

Whether it's a line from a movie, an advertising slogan or a politician's catchphrase, some statements take hold in people's minds better than others. But why?

Cornell researchers who applied computer analysis to a database of movie scripts think they may have found the secret of what makes a line memorable.

The study suggests that memorable lines use familiar sentence structure but incorporate distinctive words or phrases, and they make general statements that could apply elsewhere. The latter may explain why lines such as, "You're gonna need a bigger boat" or "These aren't the droids you're looking for" (accompanied by a hand gesture) have become standing jokes. You can use them in a different context and apply the line to your own situation.

While the analysis was based on movie quotes, it could have applications in marketing, politics, entertainment and social media, the researchers said.

"Using movie scripts allowed us to study just the language, without other factors. We needed a way of asking a question just about the language, and the movies make a very nice dataset," said graduate student Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, first author of a paper to be presented at the 50th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics July 8-14 in Jeju, South Korea.

The study grows out of ongoing work on how ideas travel across networks.

"We've been looking at things like who talks to whom," said Jon Kleinberg, a professor of computer science who worked on the study, "but we hadn't explored how the language in which an idea was presented might have an effect."

To address that, they collaborated with Lillian Lee, a professor of computer science who specializes in computer processing of natural human language.

They obtained scripts from about 1,000 movies, and a database of memorable quotes from those movies from the Internet Movie Database. Each quote was paired with another from the movie's script, spoken by the same character in the same scene and about the same length, to eliminate every factor except the language itself. Obi-Wan Kenobi, for example, also said, "You don't need to see his identification," but you don't hear that a lot.

They asked a group of people who had not seen the movies to choose which quote in the pairs was most memorable. Two patterns emerged to identify the memorable choice: distinctiveness and generality.

Then the researchers programmed a computer with linguistic rules reflecting these concepts. A line will be less general if it contains third-person pronouns and definite articles (which refer to people, objects or events in the scene) and uses past tense (usually referring to something that happened previously in the story). Distinctive language can be identified by comparison with a database of news stories. The computer was able to choose the memorable quote an average of 64 percent of the time.

Later analysis also found subtle differences in sound and word choice: Memorable quotes use more sounds made in the front of the mouth, words with more syllables and fewer coordinating conjunctions.

In a further test, the researchers found that the same rules applied to popular advertising slogans.

Although teaching a computer how to write memorable dialogue is probably a long way off, applications might be developed to monitor the work of human writers and evaluate it in progress, Kleinberg suggested.

The researchers have set up a website where you can test your skill at identifying memorable movie quotes, and perhaps contribute some data to the research, at www.cs.cornell.edu/~cristian/memorability.html.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. The original article was written by Bill Steele. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "Computer scientists show what makes movie lines memorable." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120508220011.htm>.
Cornell University. (2012, May 8). Computer scientists show what makes movie lines memorable. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120508220011.htm
Cornell University. "Computer scientists show what makes movie lines memorable." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120508220011.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) Breeze, a portable breathalyzer, gets you home safely by instantly showing your blood alcohol content, and with one tap, lets you call an Uber, a cab or a friend from your contact list to pick you up. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A study suggests that parents become desensitized to violent movies as well as children, which leads them to allow their kids to view violent films. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins