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.

Are Conservatives Simple Minded?

Not too long ago, there was a bit of buzz going on about a study that suggested that liberals and conservatives can both be simple minded. In the past most of the reporting has suggested that when it comes to politics conservatives as a group are less complex thinkers than liberals, so naturally it created a stir. The buzz and the study intrigued me, so I decided to do a bit of a deep dive and sketchnote out what the researchers did.

I got the original study “Are Conservatives Really More Simple-Minded than Liberals? The Domain Specificity of Complex Thinking” by Conway, et al. , and started to read.  One really important note up front: neither I nor the authors suggest that complex thinking is always a sign of correct thinking or even desirable thinking. If you were out with a new acquaintance who told you their views on, say, cannibalism, were complex, you would probably be squicked out. However, since previous research had suggested that conservatives were almost always less complex than liberals, the authors wanted to check that specifically.  Their basic hypothesis was simple: when it comes to complex thinking, topic matters. They conducted 4 studies to test this hypothesis, so the whole thing got a little crowded….but here’s the overview:FullSizeRender

A couple thoughts/notes:

  1. One of those most interesting findings was that complexity dropped as intensity of feeling increased. This causation could go either way….people could feel strongly about things they believe are straightforward, or we could simplify when our feelings are strong. Or it could be both.
  2. It’s interesting to me that they rated both regular college kids and then rated the debates.  That seemed like a nice balance.
  3. When they used regular college kids, they only used people who scored at the higher end for conservatism or liberalism. They did not include people who were in the middle.

Overall, I don’t think this result is particularly surprising. It makes sense that people are not entirely complex or entirely simple. Interesting study, and I look forward to more!

R&C: Exercise and Parenting

This week’s paper is about exercise.  And parenting.  And exercising while parenting.  And controlling for self-reporting vs measured exercise….all topics that I personally find fascinating and close to home. The study is Associations between parenting partners’ objectively-assessed physical activity and Body Mass Index: A cross-sectional study which is a mouthful of a name, but is much simpler than it looks.  Essentially it’s comparing parenting partners (moms and dads who live together, but may or may not be married) and their activity levels.  This has been done before, but mostly using self reporting.  This study was attempting to see what physical activity rates were when people wore a monitor to track their activity levels.  This controls for the very real possibility that people may inflate their activity levels to match their spouse, or spouses may both inflate their activity levels, etc etc.  Here’s the study:



Now this is some interesting data.  Controlling for multiple other factors, women’s activity levels do appear to be positively correlated with their coparent’s….but mostly on weekends.   The study authors suggest that much activity during the week is actually a product of commuting or other routines, and thus is less correlated to what your spouse dose.  Makes sense.

What makes less sense is trying to tie activity level directly to weight loss, which the authors do right in the introduction.  While exercise is good for all sorts of things, increasing it does not automatically result in weight loss.  Interestingly, even among study participants the more active gender (men) did not have a lower BMI than the less active gender (women).  Of course for this study, the data set did not include any information about the current health status of the participants, so we don’t know if some of them were active and trying to lose weight during the study, or any other confounding factors.  Either way, it does seem clear that you will likely pick up some of your partners health habits, so chose wisely.

Back Pain and Yoga

So the irritation of the week is back pain.  I have a slight spinal deformity and gosh does that thing flair up sometimes.  I was looking around for some good papers to help address this issue, when I stumbled across this one that compared yoga, exercise, and a self care book.  It’s called Comparing Yoga, Exercise, and a Self-Care Book for Chronic Low Back Pain A Randomized, Controlled Trial  by Karen J. Sherman, PhD, MPH; Daniel C. Cherkin, PhD; Janet Erro, RN, MN, PNP; Diana L. Miglioretti, PhD; and Richard A. Deyo, MD, MPH.  Here’s the sketchnote:07jul15v2

Some thoughts:

  1. It’s pretty unsurprisingly both exercise and yoga outperformed the book.  Both were active interventions with some participation required.  Interventions like that tend to do better.
  2. The design of this study had a lot of attention to detail.  They were very careful to make the exercise as attractive as the yoga by having a physical therapist design a special program uniquely for the study.  They wanted to make sure that both the yoga and the exercise were novel enough that people would be interested equally in both.  I’ve seen other studies skip this step or have one clearly more interesting option, so I was happy to see they controlled for it.
  3. It’s interesting to think of the real world implications of point #2.  It is likely much easier to find a yoga class than it is to find a custom back pain exercise class.  OTOH, some people may like going to a physical therapist better than doing yoga, and that’s probably close to the same thing.

Ultimately, if it looks intriguing, that’s probably enough to help make a difference.


R&C: A Tale of Two Bowel Preps

So last week I had the distinct, uh, pleasure of having my first colonoscopy.  To answer your questions:

  1. Yes, I’m too young for that
  2. I had to get one because of family risk factors, that I’m irrationally annoyed about.
  3. Yes, talking about it could be considered TMI

With that out of the way, I’m at least going to talk about #3 there.  Colonoscopies are weird and uncomfortable to talk about yes, but colorectal cancer is the 2nd deadliest cancer (behind only lung cancer) in the US, and it just doesn’t have to be like that.  It’s pretty treatable if caught early, and removing polyps can prevent it all together.  Despite this, many people still skip or delay their colonoscopies because they’re embarrassed.  More info here.  By talking about it, I’m hoping to do my small part in normalizing the experience.  If we all talk/laugh/whatever about it, maybe more people will go.

Anyway, if you go to get a colonoscopy, nearly everyone will tell you the preparation is the worst part.  You have to do a clear liquids diet for a day, and drink whole bunch of stuff to clean you out.  The subject of my paper this week is what that drink actually is, and what the alternatives are.

When I told people I was going, a lot of people warned me about the drink.  When I got my instructions, I was interested to see that there was not special drink.  I was told to by an over the counter bottle of MiraLax and some Gatorade, mix them together, and to drink that.  Several people were rather surprised that this was an option, so I decided to look in to it.  I found this paper: Randomised clinical trial: MiraLAX vs. Golytely – a controlled study of efficacy and patient tolerability in bowel preparation for colonoscopy by B. K. Enestvedt,M. B. Fennerty and G. M. Eisen.  Success!  This paper covered exactly what the two drinks were, and why you might pick one over the other.

Interesting side note:  The third drink mentioned (currently advised against by the FDA) causes a severe reaction in some people.  My boss was apparently one of those people, and her first colonoscopy was the closest she ever felt to death.  That was a really fun story to hear 3 days before going for mine.

Anyway, here’s the paper30Jun15

Interesting huh?  Before I found this paper, I had actually asked the nurses at my center why they used the Gatorade mix instead of the Golytely.  They told me that at least at their center, they had been struggling with patient complaints about the Golytely and lower compliance, and effect not really seen in this study. That matched my anecdotal experience of friends and family wondering why they hadn’t been told their was an alternative. My center also uses a slightly different prep scheme than was used in this study, which the study author suggest could make it more effective (for this study the Golytely prep and the Miralax prep were identical in terms of timing).

Regardless, my prep appeared to have worked, so that’s nice.  I’ll be back in 3 years or so, she said ruefully.

R&C: Drinking and Work

It’s been a lovely couple of weeks (months….almost a year really) at work, and I’ve been starting to ponder the effect of your job on your drinking.  Or the effect of drinking on your job.  Sometimes both at the same time.  I digress.

This week, I picked a paper called Job Strain and Alcohol Intake, A Collaborative Meta-Analysis which looked at the literature to see if high stress jobs were associated with higher drinking.



One of the most interesting parts of this paper was how they defined a “stressful job”….basically it was demanding jobs where you had very little control over your work.  By this metric, my job is not actually that stressful.  I’m not sure control inoculates you against stress the way they think it does, but I suppose it’s better than the alternatives.

R&C: I Have a Cold

It never fails, every time I work more than 9 days in a row I come down with a cold.  This latest run was no exception, and the worst part was I didn’t get a day off until day 13.  Let me tell you, it was a good time.

It’s been a tough couple of months at work, and it’s been ages since I had a real vacation.  This has not gone unnoticed, so the most common thing I heard last week from coworkers/friends/family/everyone was something along the lines of “I’m not surprised you got sick, you’ve been so stressed out!”. Naturally, I started to wonder how much validity there was to this statement, what the mechanism was, and how big the effect size might be, because that’s how I deal with things.  I wondered if stress in and of itself was a factor, or if it was really the unhealthy behaviors that came with stress.  Luckily for me, some researchers out of Carnegie Mellon were all ready with my answer in their paper Psychological Stress and Susceptibility to the Common Cold.  It’s a pretty good paper, so I sketchnoted it while still sick which is why I accidentally misspelled “susceptibility” in the title and gave my sick man 4 arms.  Ah well.



So overall, some good proof that the presence of stress can actually increase your cold risk.  My coworkers were right, and I’m taking some Nyquil and going to bed.  Goodnight everyone