Great Job, Internet!: Read This: Movies have gotten scarier by learning to manipulate the brain

Director Alfred Hitchcock once dreamed of being able to play his audience “like a giant organ,” manipulating people’s emotions at will as they watched his movies. He even imagined bypassing the movies all together and simply attaching electrodes to people’s heads and stimulating their emotions via push buttons. Today, as Patricia Pisters argues in a new essay at Aeon, that dream is closer than ever to reality, thanks to a greater understanding of the human brain. Pisters’ article describes the advent of a new kind of horror film, “the neurothriller,” that preys upon a whole range of human emotions: Fear, yes, but also guilt, lust, hope, and despair, among others. In Hitchcock’s day, the best-known method of getting audiences to feel a certain way was through plot. The director often liked to supply his viewers with information that the characters on screen did not have, like the …

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