In this article the writer expresses the hope that it may be useful merely 'to adumbrate the problem', but she accomplishes within the limited space at her disposal a valuable analysis of the influences that the cinema may have upon the mind and personality of the child. The references to, and quotations from, the reports of educational bodies show both useful and detrimental results of the cinema in education. Miss Low in this article analyses the 'why' of these results, and educationalists will be glad to have more light thrown on their own problems through the only method that penetrates deeper than consciousness.
The article develops along the following lines: The cinema is one of the most powerful influences of modern society. Reference is made to St. John Ervine, who declared some time ago that a new type of mentality had come into being, which he called the 'Movie Mind'.
The type of mentality that is evolving must be of first-rate importance to the educator. That this importance is recognized is evidenced in the reports issued by different bodies upon the use of the cinema in education. Some conclusions made by them are arguable, certain fundamental aspects of the question at issue are untouched.
There is a two-fold aspect of the cinema as an educational force—(a) as an instrument for achieving definite results such as the vivid representation of facts and ideas, (b) as a method by which the human mind can be affected and directed. The first aspect is mainly dealt with in the various educational reports, i.e. with the questions of concrete results relating to the content of the child's mind.
Miss Low proceeds to deal with the problem 'exactly how and in what respects can the cinema influence the mind and personality of the child'.
Modern communities demand easy, quick methods of entertainment characterized by sensationalism and a drugging effect. The demand for the cinema is a symptom of the prevalent attitude, an expression in a projected form of an inner fear and sense of inadequacy. It is also a gratification of the unconscious wishes which cause the demand.
The cinema gratifies the omnipotent wish achieved by magic, and this not because of the theme of the film but by the film method. It represents questions and problems solved, it simplifies and selects, whereas life is non-selective and complex. The spectator is only required to be passively attentive, gaining his gratification with the least expenditure of effort.
Even where films are true to reality Miss Low contends that the
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mechanism is the same, the element of magic being present in the simplification and rapid solution of problems.
In films of natural history, geography and mechanical processes, distorted ideas are conveyed, especially in time conceptions.
Miss Low concedes that such criticism applies in a measure to varying forms of art, but in all other forms than the cinema the mind of the artist works with a non-mechanistic medium, which has specific limitations, and demands are made upon the spectator.
An aspect of the cinema bound up with some of the deepest developmental impulses is its relation to time. The cinema fosters illusion of timelessness by the swiftest of happenings, the lack of elaboration, lack of opportunity to show slow development and growth. The cinema falsifies values. The children's sense of proportion and value is retarded. Constant variety in presentation tends to the creation of a mentality characterized by an inability to concentrate. The gratification of curiosity on its infantile level is likely to be maintained through the demand of an almost exclusively visual attention.
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Sharpe, E.F. (1926). Childhood. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 7:82-83