• Frame & Bar Media

PMI100 Psychology of the Moving Image - Assessment 4

Audience Reaction Analysis: Animation

What a treat! It was a real pleasure receiving your feedback and awesome comments on this one! It was really special to have so many of you be able to decipher my notalgia puzzle. If you experience feelings of derealization I did my job.

Existentially Yours,


To gain a better understanding of the whole study (and the psychological techniques utilised) please start with Assessment 2 which you can find here.


Survey participants were recruited from a selection of personal contacts including friends, family and fellow students. 19-23 people* (male and female) across a wide age range participated in the study, encompassing a wide range of occupations and life experience. Participants were recruited primarily via text message, Facebook/Messenger, WhatsApp and Discord (Public and Private). The participants were chosen according to Dunbar's number ;)

88% of respondents were from Australia with a further 8% from America and the remainder shared between GB and HK On average the survey was completed (on avrage) in 10 minutes, (the same time as the first PMI survey).

Recruitment Statement and Instructions

Hi, my name is Oliver Lavender and I am currently conducting research for an assignment as part of my Bachelor of Film and Video at Billy Blue / Torrens University.

So as not to bias your answers the context and subject details will not shared with you at this point. I am seeking participants to partake in an individual survey, which will require you to watch 2 short animations and answer a series of predetermined and open questions (9 per video).

  • This survey will take around 15 minutes.

  • All information volunteered is anonymised.

  • Overall results will be shared after the research phase has concluded.

  • Please note: You will be unable to go back and edit questions once you click forward... First impressions are perfect :)

A data clean up was performed to eliminate spelling and syntax errors. This ensured the resulting word clouds are more accurate to the participants original intentions and observations. Word clouds are used to provide an alternative way of observing qualitative data and to highlight potentially unseen connections. They are useful in aggregating varied responses into unified representations of a question. The larger a word is and the closer that word is to the center of the cloud, dictates the prevalence and salience that the word carries. This needs to be read carefully though as positives can reflect as negatives and visa versa without proper context and this is why the key findings of this study will go into detail.

The Likert scale (a bipolar scaling method) has also been used in questions 1 to 4 in this study. Likert is useful it obtaining a more nuanced answer from respondents as it reveals preference on a sliding scale, in contrast to a simple yes or no response.

(*Unknown total number as the overall "completed" figure is 19 but there are 23 answers per question)



Questions 1 - 4

Which emotion is portrayed in the animation? (1)

Describe what is happening in the animation? (1)

What is the main message of the animation? (1)

What is the purpose of the animation? (1)

The animation would make more sense if … ? (1)


Questions 1 - 4

Which emotion is portrayed in the animation? (2)

Describe what is happening in the animation? (2)

What is the main message of the animation? (2)

What is the purpose of the animation? (2)

The animation would make more sense if … ? (2)

Full results of the study can be found below >>>

PMI100 Ass 4 Results
Download PDF • 264KB


In Animation 1 the vast majority of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed (majority) that the animation A) tells a story, B) is interesting to watch, C) communicates a message and D) evokes emotion.

In response to the question Which emotion is portrayed in Animation (1), Anticipation was the highest ranked choice, preceded by Fear which was followed (in a three way tie between) Happiness, Anger and Loneliness.

When asked to describe what is happening in the animation (1) the full majority of participants (23 of 23) correctly answered the question (in various ways), in relation to A) the reception theory (RT) and hypothesis proposed by the animator and B) the guidelines set forth in Wick & et al’s study of Perception in dynamic scenes which states:

“The guidelines provided to assess a fit were to assign a point for each of the following 6 criteria met: shapes could be identified based on the physical description, behaviours could be identified, narrative was “entertaining” (to avoid purely physical descriptive accounts), and the narrative did not contain specialised references (e.g. to pop culture) (This was not adhered to as there were multiple pop culture reference made throughout). Points were given if narrative attributed emotions to shape and if the spatial structure and locations of shapes were described accurately.” (Wick, 2019)

One of the most compelling answers (in response to the description of Animation 1) is the following description of the narrative:

You enter a lab where the staff member introduces you to the experiment and explains how it works. She makes you sign a non-disclosure agreement and says that some people got lost in the virtual world, hinting at something ominous.

and the following expansion:

The music is unsettling from the start. You are welcomed to a test lab and are greeted by a creepy receptionist that tries to be causal and "jokey" but it didn't work because of the robotic voice lacking tone and emotion. This is unsettling along with the music. There is reference to people getting lost but no bother, also quite a worry, then you are led into a super creepy looking test lab and met by a technician in a lab coat. Super unnerving.

This answer is similar to the original hypothesis, which will be covered in the comparative report.

As the message of both Animation 1 & 2 was left somewhat ambiguous, the results are varied but are mostly inline with the original RT. Most participants were able to create connections from one or all of the various emotions (or apparent behaviour) displayed by the characters and construct descriptions and observations that were both insightful and accurate. For example “Creepiness” or “Don't do drugs” or “Virtual Worlds”. All in their own unique way, contributing to the overall narrative devices at work.

Some particularly compelling answers to this question were:

The animation is not complete, I have been shown an introduction into a narrative, I didn't get a main message, there was an opening to an experiment, we were asked to follow the narrator, to put on a headset for an experiment, but we were not given any more information. The scenario seemed as though the host and scientist were in a spacecraft from the 90's era.
This feels like a propaganda film, warning against the dangers of big corp, or science or could be the beginnings of a anti vaxx film. Something along those lines.
I’m not sure, but it’s nostalgic because it’s like a pixelated video game but instead of pixels it’s distorted because it looks like it was created by AI.

In response to the purpose of the animation (1) the results were varied. x4 participants were "Not sure" but gave indication to still receiving the animation positively.

Other compelling qualitative answers included:

  • “To prep you for said procedure”

  • “Not sure! It's weird and unsettling. It could be the start level of a computer game too”

  • “I think it is to disorient and create a sense of unease. The landscape is a little disconcerting and uncomfortable”

  • “to create intrigue and anticipation”

  • “I think the purpose of the animation is to pose a question to the audience regarding the notion of reality”

In regards to the question of (The animation would make more sense if …), the majority of respondents agreed that the animation did NOT require alteration to convey the intended reception theory or in other words, “make sense”. The main (constructive) comments centred around extending the time the text remained on screen and the ending being ambiguous. Some called for the running time to be longer and include more background information and context. The more observant participants were correct in their assumption that this was the first part of the story (the set up) and that there was more to come. (Personal Note: I felt this group enjoyed the film more. It's as though they were able to suspend disbelief - go with the flow and take it all in - rather than search for immediate answers and miss the subtle clues (laid out like bread crumbs) that inform the observant viewer of all they are INTENDED to know at that point in the narrative. A lack of understanding can be just as rewarding as an explicitly detailed exposition, if it's done right).

One answer, directly foreshadowed my hypothesis surrounding Part B and the audiences predicted reaction. They also go on to describe the narrative plans I had set out for Part 2 (and 3!):

If I was led into the room, given the headset to put on, informed what the purpose of the experiment was... if I was given more information to understand how I was going to participate, and what would happen if I did. If there was a scene that took me into a cyber world, and the host and scientist were involved in a plot, and if there was closure, an end, like something was achieved by being in the experiment.

Animation 2’s quantitative questions were far more affirmative in their result. All participants Strongly agreed or agreed that the animation was interesting to told a story, was interesting to watch, communicated a message and evoked emotion. The conclusion of the story provided the desired result stated in the original hypothesis and created a far stronger emotional and comprehensional result.

In Animation 2, Fear was the number one emotion registered, followed by Anticipation and Anger.

The answers for question 6 (Describe what is happening in the animation) are far more illuminating than those of Part 1. I will let the participants do the talking :)

This animation is the end of the story for the first video. It provides additional context and the audio appears to have moved the mood of the animation in a friendlier direction, despite the storyline taking a nefarious turn. The protagonist appears to have been volunteered to have their consciousness uploaded to the metaverse against their consent. One or two frames toward the end of the video imply Mark Zuckerberg is behind the plot.
The character has been strapped into a device that is designed to digitise the human brain and transfer it into a virtual world. That character as they come to understand that they are about to lose their physical body, tries to back out of the experiment, but is too late!
It turns out that the experiment is to digitize the human consciousness into a virtual world, but at the cost of having your life in complete mercy of the world's makers.
Your conscious awareness is being uploaded to a digital matrix presumably destroying the original copy and as a result all rights of your new reality will be governed to by this a cooperation you signed off on.

This one reads like a Slug Line for the poster! (ha ha) I LOVE IT!

The true nature of the situation becomes clear. You are to be digitised as the next step in human evolution.

My personal favourite as the viewer received the RT perfectly, in the exact order intended:

Finally resolved. Yes the suspicious set up in the first video were correct, it was a big shadowy corporation that wanted your consciousness! Scary. You get strapped into a chair and have your brain scanned to be transferred onto a server mainframe. Although your promised a paradise it's going to be on their terms and also it means your going to die in the real world. Once you realise this it's too late because "consent" was already given, presumably with the non-disclosure form signed at reception on the way in for the "tests".

As there was no direct comparison between Part A & B (unlike Assessment 1&2) it was harder to gauge the success of one video over the other. The positive results of Part 2 coupled with longer answers in the qualitative sections suggest that that it had a greater impact on the audience. It was interesting to note that some participants felt unsatisfied with the lack of conclusion in Part A, where others felt intrigued to know where the story was headed and were left wanting more. I think this could be an interesting psychological question to research ("What percentage of people are "Cliff hanger" addicts?" Haha).

Generally both animations were received extremely well.

Perhaps even better than expected!


The results of this survey provide evidence that supports the idea that the audience was able to successfully comprehend the animators reception theory and were successful in observing the nuance of the original hypothesis.

Most answers were almost carbon copies to the original “Simple” hypothesis:

For both Part A and B, I think the audience will make a comment on the strange aesthetic, lack of conclusion in Part 1 followed by a broader understanding of the narrative in Part 2 coupled with a increased emotional response as result of the increase in intensity of tone, sound and visual stimuli that suggest something is odd (or not quite right) about the situation and what happens to their character is unexpected at the very least..

And nearly all were able to demonstrate their understanding in relation to the original “the more complicated” hypothesis:

"The audience will understand that they are playing a character that views the world from a first person perspective (extra points if they relate the experience back to graphic adventure video games or 90’s symbolism). They will also comprehend that they have arrived at the headquarters of a large corporation to partake in an undefined experiment."

The full hypothesis can be found here and has been omitted for brevity.

I would also infer (from the results received) the psychological theories used to manipulate and "guide" the audience into a sense of anticipation followed by fear were successful. Another interesting result was the detail in the responses from the question 7 (Main message of animation B). Most were far beyond the scope of what I imagined when creating the narrative. I was going for something deeper, but it wasn't till I read the audiences answers that I was able to decipher my own riddle. That was a very strange and fulfilling result. Some excellent answers include:

It makes me think about how being conscious but free of disease and death can be portrayed in a positive and progressive light but how isolating that would be. The message might also be about how we sign consent all the time without reading about we are consenting to and the consequences.
To frighten the viewer and making it feel like a reel life participation of a experiment like this. To evoke feelings that we may soon have to deal with due to the progress of meta world aka facebook moving forward with similar construction of an online world beyond our imagination.
That the meta verse is a step down the path to a post human existence and there are considerable pitfalls associated.


The audience reached a general consensus on both animations 1 & 2 demonstrating the animators instinct and RT was correct, therefore, I felt I had free reign to take animation 3 where ever I wanted. I wanted to explore the universe I had built in the previous two episodes. I decided to double down on the "Zuck" factor. I also played with the idea that we are all being willing cuckolded and "Fin-Dom'd" by Facebook and this is only going to get worse with the introduction of the metaverse. I also know you love retro video games Andy so this one I made for you :) I think you will get what I am going for and appreciate the detail and thought I have sought to "emulate" with AI.

  • To provide more context and depth to the story

  • Allow longer pauses of text elements

  • Fill out the backstory

  • Introduce more drama and increase the stakes

  • Further explore the "notalgia factor" more

  • Further explore the aesthetics of Dreamcore/Weirdcore/Liminal Space

  • Push the complexity of the animations and see what is possible with this new AI workflow I have developed

One very good piece of feedback came the "Animation.. More Sense" section of part B. Im not sure if I agree with the whole thing as I was trying to create ambiguity. I also had plans for episode 3 that have addressed certain parts of their response BUT nonetheless if that wasn't the case and I wanted to make everything clearer and really flesh out the idea... this would be the way to do it:

You need more background of who is running the brain scanning and why. Your promised a place in the new world order and a paradise where you can do anything, a virtual heaven if you will. But because it is implied you were tricked on the consent form it stands to reason that maybe this paradise isn't all it's promised to be. And then the disclaimer at the end that they can copy you over and over again is very unsettling as it removes one from the unique individual your are and transfers you to an easily copyable piece of data owned by a corporation. The unresolved element of this builds anxiety and adds drama, but it would make more sense if you had more of the story beforehand of who these people were and what was your motivation for turning up there for tests, as well as what happened after you were scanned and "died".


While I was developing the concept of the 3rd animation (at the 11th hour) I was speaking to a friend who said more story could be compared to a short story called "I have no mouth, and I must scream" which is about an AI that gains sentience malevolence and tortures a bunch of human consciousness's that are trapped in a computer with it for eternity. I haven't read it, but am looking forward to it as that sounds like the coolest plot ever! ha ha! It certainly inspired this my work.


I think they (the audience) got it :) It was EXTREMELY gratifying to have results that correctly identified most, if not all the nuance of my intentions within the animation (and in places changed my own interpretation!). I tried to use every trick we have learnt this term and apply the psychological theories we have covered with more depth and nuance which I feel I achieved.

I found more confident in my decision making process with this "round" and had a good grasp on being able to correctly possit how an audience would react to my ideas/animation/narrative. Taking this approach with future projects will be invaluable.

Overall, I am happy with the results and similarity to to my RT. I really feel I have found a new, creative and most importantly exciting way of making art and ultimately, expressing myself in weird and wonderful ways.


Full results of the study can be found below >>>

Download PDF • 318KB


Wick, F. A., Alaoui Soce, A., Garg, S., Grace, R. C., & Wolfe, J. M. (2019). Perception in dynamic scenes: What is your Heider capacity?. Journal of experimental psychology. General, 148(2), 252–271.


Lavender, O. (2021 November 4). PMI100 Psychology of the Moving Image - Assessment 2. [Assessment].


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