Movies and Conduct: A Payne Fund Study

Appendix A: Form Used For the Writing of Most of the Motion Picture Autobiographies

Herbert Blumer

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THIS study is part of a national inquiry into motion pictures by a group of specialists in physiology, psychology, and sociology. It seeks to find out the influence of motion pictures on conduct. One way to find out how people are influenced by motion pictures is to ask them. This method is adopted in this study as the best approach. Each student is requested to write an account, or autobiography, of his motion picture experiences, beginning with his earliest recollections and carrying the life history down to about a year ago. The student need not write about his contemporary experiences. Two thousand life histories are to be collected.

To insure frankness in writing one's experiences it is suggested that a complete anonymous relation be established. The following scheme may be used: the class appoint a committee of two or three students who assign a number to each student in the class; each autobiography is turned in without the student's name but under his number; the teacher returns to the student committee the student numbers with the grades given; the committee returns to the teacher a list of the students with the grades given. In this manner each student receives credit for his work-yet the teacher will not know the authors of the separate biographies.

This is a scientific study. Its value depends upon the accuracy of the material gathered. The student is asked to be conscientious, truthful, and frank. Do not try to dress up your account in a literary fashion-write naturally. Do not be concerned about English usage. Do not exaggerate in any of your descriptions; do not invent or make up experiences. Be scrupulously honest. Do not feel any restraints in writing fully and frankly your intimate personal experiences-arrangements are made to preserve your anonymity.

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Guidance Sheet

Write about only those items on which you have had experience.

1. a. Trace the history of your interest in the movies.

How did you first become interested in motion pictures? What kind of pictures did you like at first? When did you lose interest in them? What kind of pictures did you like next? Trace in this way the different kinds of pictures you have liked, and mention about how old you were at each change. Explain as fully as possible the conditions under which each change occurred.

Who were your earliest movie favorites? Who next became your favorites? Who are your present favorites? Explain why you like the movie stars you mention.

As a child, with whom did you usually go to the theater? (Alone, with parents, older brothers and sisters, chum, gang, etc.). What time of day did you usually go? How many times a week? Whom do you usually go with now?

Were you interested in serials? If so, describe your behavior.

Explain how movies influenced your play. Give concrete instances. What parts did you usually play (cowboy, policeman, Indian, etc.)? Did you engage in any escapades as a result of what you saw in the movies? Did you do any damage, or harm anyone as a result of doing something suggested by the movies? Did you do anything which you now feel to be wrong or improper? Describe.

What day-dreams did you have as a result of the movies? Explain fully what you imagined yourself doing. Do you believe that your day-dreaming in childhood was aroused especially by motion pictures, or more by other things? What other things?

b. Describe how motion pictures have affected your emotions and moods.

Were you ever severely frightened or horrified by any motion picture or scene? Describe as fully as you can the experience. How long did the fright or horror stay with you? How did it show its effects in your behavior?

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Have you ever cried at pictures, or felt like crying? Give instances. Do you like to cry at pictures?

Do you find it hard to control the emotions aroused by motion pictures? Do you get more enjoyment from a picture by letting your emotions go?

Do you find that the movies easily change your moods? How long do the moods last? Give specific instances.

2. a. Write fully about what you have imitated from the movies.

Have you adopted any mannerisms (any gestures such as the use of the hands and arms, the inclining of the head, walking in a certain way, etc.)? Any ways of dressing, any ways of beautification? Any poses? Give concrete instances of what you have imitated.

What have you learned about love-making from the movies? About how to behave with the opposite sex at parties and elsewhere?

Describe anything else you have imitated from the movies.

b. Describe your experience with pictures of love and romance.

When did you first become interested in love pictures? Tell how this interest developed. Was interest in boys or girls awakened through motion pictures? Did you ever fall in love with any of your movie idols? Describe. Did you ever imagine yourself playing a part with them in the pictures? Did you ever day-dream about them? Describe your experiences along this line as fully and concretely as you can. Did you ever write any love letters to your movie favorites? Did you ever practice love scenes in your play, as a result of the movies?

Write fully your experiences with love pictures and love scenes. Have you been thrilled by love scenes? Describe your feelings and actions on seeing such love scenes. Have you felt stirred as a result of seeing them? Have such pictures or scenes made you more receptive to love-making? Describe any experiences you may have had of this nature. Have any of your ideas of love been formed by the movies? Have you and your associates been accustomed to talk much about love pictures? What was the nature, in general, of your conversations?

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3.  Write fully about any ambitions and temptations which you have gotten, from the movies.

What kind of picture or pictures did you get your ambitions or temptations from? What did you day-dream about when you had the ambitions and temptations? Write about each ambition and temptation separately.

Did the movies ever develop in you a yearning for travel? Did you ever want to leave or run away from home as a result of the movies? Have the movies ever made you dissatisfied with your neighborhood, or with your own type of life? (House, clothes, manners of your parents, etc.). Have the movies ever caused you to rebel, or want to rebel, against the strictness of your parents? Against school discipline? Did you get ideas of how much freedom you should have, from the way in which fellows and girls are given privileges in the movies? What is your notion of the freedom you should have?

Did you ever want very much, to become a movie star, or go into the movies? What kind of movie star did you want to become? What kind of life did you imagine you would lead in the movies? Did you ever feel tempted to go to Hollywood and seek a career? Describe.

Did the movies ever give you any vocational ambitions---to become a lawyer, a nurse, a soldier, etc. Have they ever reŽnforced some vocational ambition which you already had? Describe such instances. Have college pictures ever given you a desire to go to college? War pictures to become a soldier? Religious pictures, to become a religious leader or saint? Describe.

Indicate any other ambitions and temptations gained from the movies beside those suggested or mentioned.

Have any movies strengthened you in your home ties? In your friendships? Any movie experiences which led you to do kindly deeds, or any which made you resolve to lead a better life? Any movie experiences which inspired you? Describe.

Have you seen any pictures—such as racial pictures—which you feel developed prejudices in you? Describe such pictures and how you felt about them. Have you seen any pictures which made you more broad-minded? Describe.


Do you feel that the movies have made you feel more favorable toward crime? Did you ever have any inclination or temptation to engage in crime as a result of the movies? What kind of crime? Did you ever have the desire to become an honorable criminal-a benevolent criminal like Robin Hood?


No notes

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