If you want to know whether you're going to enjoy a movie, the opinion of professional film critics might not be the best place to find out. Jonathan Plucker and colleagues compared the ratings given to films by professional critics, "amateur critics", and undergrad students, and discovered a continuum of overlapping opinion with the experts being the harshest judges, followed by the amateur critics, while the students were the most generous.
A further finding to emerge was that undergrads who'd watched more films tended to provide harsher ratings, but these were still more generous on average than the amateur and professional critics.
Plucker's team said this is one of the first studies to compare expert and lay opinion on films in a systematic way. Their results involved the assessment of 680 films dating from 2001 and 2005, with professional ratings garnered from metacritic.com and amateur critics' ratings taken from www.imdb.com and www.boxofficemojo.com. One hundred and sixty-nine undergrads provided their ratings for comparison.
The researchers said their findings support the idea of "creative gatekeepers" who help society decide what products in a given realm are truly creative. A continuum of film opinion suggests different people might best be served by different gatekeepers. They explained: "a gatekeeper for one person may be a well-known critic, for another, novice critics on the most popular film sites; and for yet another, their next-door neighbour or best friend."
Plucker, J., Kaufman, J., Temple, J., & Qian, M. (2009). Do experts and novices evaluate movies the same way? Psychology and Marketing, 26 (5), 470-478 DOI: 10.1002/mar.20283
Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.