The Emotional Impact of Video
In terms of brain science, the difference between text and video comes down to the difference between thinking and feeling. And, as Psychologist Liraz Magalit explains, when it comes to emotional response, on certain levels, the brain does not differentiate between experiences seen on video and those experience in real-life.
The brain mediates emotions through set of automatic reactions, many of which consist of “mirror neurons.” Mirror neurons activate in the same way to perceived experience—whether perceived in an actual situation or on a video screen. According to Magalit, “our brains mirror what’s unfolding before us as if we were part of the scene, even if we are just sitting passively on the sidelines.”
Mirror neurons map actions that we see others perform onto the emotional centers of our own brains. And not just movements. We map the goals of others' actions onto our motor systems, and even the intentions and emotions accompanying these actions. And we map actions not only in response to seeing the actions but when hearing the noises that accompany them
Experiments show that our brains become active both when we feel excitement ourselves and when we witness someone else's facial expression of excitement. In other words, our brains enable us to “share” emotion—whether in life or via video.
In short, the discovery of mirror neurons explains why we respond with genuine emotion to the events in movies, despite our intellectual awareness that "it's just a movie."
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