Bryan Caplan  

A Result I Was Happy to Hear

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I often go to movies alone. Tyler convinced me to try, and I haven't looked back. So naturally I'm delighted to hear that S.C Noah Uhrig has found that "Cinema Is Good for You":

Using data from wave 12 of the British Household Panel Study, I find that cinema attendance has strong positive effects on happiness and stable negative effects on self-reporting of anxiety or depression, even when controlling for various socio-demographic and economic factors. This research confirms, therefore, that cinema is a unique leisure activity with beneficial properties for well-being.
I now await the followup study: "Gaming Is Really Good for You." Surely this important research topic has grown too big to keep neglecting? :-)


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COMMENTS (13 to date)
Rimfax writes:

I didn't get a sense of whether the results were the same for all display types: CRT, LCD/plasma, projector, etc. I have been lead to believe that each of those may induce different types of brain waves, possibly altering your results. It does discuss how the "controlled collective experience" of a movie theater might impart some benefits, but nothing about the effect of the display technology.

Les writes:

Most movies these days seem very dumbed down. So, if there is any statistical association between happiness (whatever that may be) and movie-going, I suggest (a) that IQ (or lack thereof) may be an intervening variable, and (b)that we bear in mind that correlation does not prove causation.

conchis writes:

I like how the effect of cinema-going on happiness dies if you include concert-going and/or eating out in the model. Gotta love sponsored research.

A quick check on the panel (9-waves, using the fixed effects estimator, rather than just OLS on a single round) confirms that cinema-going has the smallest and most insignificant effect on life-satisfaction of all the potential uses of time measured in the BHPS. In contrast, frequency of sporting activities, concert-going, eating out, gardening, doing DIY, and "attending local groups", all have significant positive effects,even when included together.

Bah.

bartman writes:

Going to the movies today usually puts me in the presence of a couple hundred inconsiderate loudmouthed idiotic boors. It certainly doesn't make me happy, which is why I stopped going.

Indeed, almost any venture to any public event reminds one that rude, unthinking, lowbrow, crass and solipsistic are the defining adjectives of public life in America today.

Bryan Caplan writes:
bartman writes:

Going to the movies today usually puts me in the presence of a couple hundred inconsiderate loudmouthed idiotic boors. It certainly doesn't make me happy, which is why I stopped going.

Indeed, almost any venture to any public event reminds one that rude, unthinking, lowbrow, crass and solipsistic are the defining adjectives of public life in America today.

Try weekday matinees. I usually have the whole theater to myself.
Blackadder writes:

Ah, but is going to the movies alone good for you?

dearieme writes:

How did they manage to show an "effect", as distinct from an association?

Rue Des Quatre Vents writes:

Come on! Sampling bias. Happy people go to movies.

Show me separated at birth identical twins, one of whom has been going to movies for a decade while the other hasn't.

Dave writes:

I'd strongly recommend the book "Everything Bad is Good For You," by Steven Johnson. Covers gaming to a great extent, along with movies and television.

For example, consider how playing a new video game forces you to experiment and discover the "physics" of the game- how high you can jump, how fast you can run, and what structure the game's objectives take. This experimenting leads to the kind of skills engineers need- and are a possible reason that kids always seem to understand VCRs better than adults.

Nathan Smith writes:

Maybe we should subsidize them! :)
Or, seriously, maybe philanthropists should consider supporting them. There's a case for this because intellectual property is a second-best solution anyway when the cost of reproducing a movie is negligible. A smart philanthropist could subsidize movies in return for a deal to sunset the copyright earlier, and/or not to enforce it in poor countries. Pass the hat to fight anxiety and depression!

bartman writes:

Try weekday matinees. I usually have the whole theater to myself.

Was able to do that a lot when I was a student, and a bit when I was a prof. Can't now, since I traded the classroom for the capitalist grind...my bosses tend to want me there for the endless meetings.

I had a buddy who was a reviewer for the local paper, and I'd often join him at press screenings: 10 am on Friday morning, 5 or 6 guys in the theater, with free coffee and donuts put on by the cinema. The only way to watch film:-)

David writes:

Conchis, could you explain what you said for the laity?

I think I see what you mean in table 4 of the paper, but I'm not completely sure.

Thanks!

Nicole writes:

It doesn't surprise me that movie-going can be beneficial. I can't say that one should rely on cinema attendance to influence their happiness, but I can say that if I go to the movie and I enjoy it, especially if it's full of comic relief, I usually leave the theater in a better mood than when I entered. However, if I don't enjoy the movie, and it feels like a waste of money, I'm usually not in a very positive mood afterward, if I even stay for the whole movie.
The sentence "This research confirms, therefore, that cinema is a unique leisure activity with beneficial properties for well-being," makes me wonder, because isn't the term 'leisure' implying that it could be beneficial to well-being. This is the only problem I have, because I believe that in order for a an activity to be considered leisurely, it should evoke positive endorphins, because most people refuse to do leisure activities that they do not find enjoyable. So if you don't enjoy cinema, it's not likely that you're going to be benefitted by going to the movies, just as someone who doesn't like to knit, wouldn't be benefitted by knitting, as a leisure activity. I think that this article could be debated because of this knowledge.

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