How Much You Enjoyed That Star Wars Movie Depends More on Your Expectations Than the Movie

A new study is confirming a long-suspected fact.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Does your expectation of a certain movie actually affect how much you end up enjoying it? Do your unrealistically high expectations prevent you from enjoying a genuinely decent movie? These are the questions some researchers at Ohio State University sought to answer in their new study.


Negative bias

The researchers surveyed 441 people who went to watch Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi. They gauged their expectations before going into the theater and then evaluated their experience after watching the film.

The results were quite interesting. What they found was that your expectation of how much you thought you would like the film does influence how much you end up liking it. That was to be expected.

What was more interesting was that they found that if you went in with a negative mindset and ended up liking the film, your enjoyment was still lower than people who went in expecting to like the film. In other words, your negative state of mind prevents you from fully enjoying the movie.

“It wasn’t really helping people to go in with those low expectations,” said James Alex Bonus, co-author of the study and assistant professor of communication at The Ohio State University.

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“The negative bias going in dragged them down and even if they were pleasantly surprised by the movie, they still didn’t like it as much as other people did.”

Predicting future events

The study sought online participants recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk. Three weeks before the release of The Last Jedi, the participants were asked to rate on a 7-point scale how happy, sad, and nostalgic they thought the film would make them feel.

After seeing the movie, the participants were asked to rate the film again along the same scale. As an interesting added bonus, the results showed that about 55% of participants did not accurately predict how the movie would make them feel.

“We are really bad at predicting how future events will make us feel,” Bonus said.

The study was published in the Journal of Media Psychology.