Cognitive film theory: A personal status – Interview with Professor Ed Tan


  • Birger Langkjær
  • Andreas Gregersen


Ed S. Tan is currently (2016-21) affiliate professor at the Department of Media, Cognition and Communication at University of Copenhagen and honorary professor of the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR). Originally trained in psychology, he quickly moved into film, media, and communications studies. He is widely known as a central figure in the ‘second wave’ of cognitive film studies, which focuses on the interplay between cognition and emotion. His 1994 book Emotion and the Structure of Narrative Film: Film as an Emotion Machine placed emotions – triggered by the careful design of movies – as the driver of film viewing and engagement, and he has consistently argued that ‘interest’ is the central emotion. His work is wide ranging and equally theoretical and empirical: He has written about the fundamental connections between play, fiction, and emotion and has shown how changes in movement parameters by the simplest of figures is sufficient to trigger specific genre recognitions in test subjects. At present, he has a special research interest in the social nature of media perception.

In the spring of 2017, Associate Professor Birger Langkjær and Associate Professor Andreas Gregersen, both at University of Copenhagen, wrote a series of questions for Ed Tan. What follows is the result of this exchange. 





Langkjær, B., & Gregersen, A. (2017). Cognitive film theory: A personal status – Interview with Professor Ed Tan. Tidsskrift for Medier, Erkendelse Og Formidling, 5(2). Hentet fra