The EMDB (Emotional Movie Database)

Working with Ben always gets me thinking about movies, so this month I decided to poke around at some of the research studies done on film in general.  I was pretty interested when I found this study called “The Emotional Movie Database (EMDB): A Self-Report and Psychophysiological Study“.  The Internet Movie Database is one of the best known resources for movie information online, so I was curious what the Emotional Movie Database would be.

Basically it’s a database of movie clips tested and validated to generally produce specific emotions in people. Attempting to induce certain emotional states in people is common in psychological research, but normally people use just still pictures. These researchers thought audio free movie clips might be helpful, as they can sustain the emotion for a bit of time.  Here’s the study:


I wasn’t able to fit all the particular movies in the sketchnote, but here they are. I didn’t include the exact scenes because the horror ones were kinda gross, but they are in the paper itself. The researchers were from Spain (edit: and Portugal), so not all are American movies:


  1. The Ruins
  2. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2 scenes)
  3. Midnight Meat Train
  4.  Hostel
  5.  Hostel 2
  6. Midnight Meat Train (2 scenes)
  7.  Cannibal Holocaust
  8.  The Rest Stop


  1. Underworld: Evolution
  2. Playboy’s Clip
  3. 9 Songs (2 scenes)
  4.  Killing Me softly
  5. Kama Sutra: the sensual art of lovemaking (2 scenes)
  6.  Monamour
  7.  Diary of a Nymphomaniac (2 scenes)

Negative Social Interactions:

  1. Boogeyman
  2.  The descent
  3.  The Pianist
  4. Diary of a Nymphomaniac
  5. Mystic River (2 scenes)
  6. Boogeyman 2
  7. Bridge to Terabithia
  8. American Beauty (2 scenes)

Social positive interactions:

  1. This Girls Life
  2.  My Best Friend’s Girls
  3. Good Luck Chuck
  4. Ruins  (2 scenes)
  5. Lie With Me
  6. Last Chance Harvey
  7. Diary of a Nymphomaniac (2 scenes)
  8.  The Rest Stop

Scenery: Disney’s Earth

Objects: Researchers filmed their hands fiddling with objects.

The most interesting part of this list is that some of the most consistently rated happy social scenes actually come from the beginnings of horror movies:The Ruins and The Rest Stop. That puts an interesting spin on what the film makers actually are doing….heightening tension by unequivocally showing happiness first.

To note, the subjects rating these clips were all college  students from Spain or Portugal. YMMV.