Camera angles may play a significant role when organizations are trying to convince TV viewers to support a cause, according to a study out of the University of Wisconsin.
The article, published in the March 2013 issue of Mass Communication and Society, examines the way that different camera angles are used to film people in need and how these angles effect viewer perceptions based on their gender. The author discovered that women were more likely to empathize with a victim that was also female and was featured using close-up camera angles. Males were more likely to empathize with a male victim portrayed in a medium-shot camera angle.
"This area of research was important to look at because society is never short of social problems and natural disasters that threaten the welfare and survival of human beings in human history," Dr. Xiaoxia Cao, the study's author, said. "How best to elicit empathy and help for those suffering from these threats through the media is an important question to be addressed by communication scholars."
Over 150 participants watched short clips from a documentary that portrayed victims who were in need of financial assistance. According to the research, the gender and camera angle matter for getting your audience to empathize with a victim. The results of this study may have an impact on how commercials and public service announcements are shot.
"The findings indicate that charitable organizations that attempt to induce greater empathy among the audience may not be able to achieve the goal by targeting male and female viewers with the exact same message," Cao said. "Rather, they should consider tailoring the camera perspectives used to portray a person for each sex group."
- Xiaoxia Cao. The Effects of Facial Close-Ups and Viewers' Sex on Empathy and Intentions to Help People in Need. Mass Communication and Society, 2013; 16 (2): 161 DOI: 10.1080/15205436.2012.683928
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