The Pro-Problem Bias in Movie Ratings

Film week post #6

A while ago Andy McKenzie argued that there are four biases in movie ratings: availability bias (nobody's seen all films, so all ratings, being inherently relative, are flawed), snobbery bias (o.k. films are rated as bad), anchoring-based bias (films that already command high acclaim are rated higher) and anti-foreign language bias (films in foreign languages get lower marks). I'll propose another one: pro-problem bias. The idea is that films which deal with "problem" topics, such as extreme poverty or genocide, get higher marks than is warranted by the raters' enjoyment of those films, explaining the otherwise mysterious presence of American History X on IMDb's list of top rated 1990's films. The idea is that, say, giving Schindler's List a 4/10 rating makes people feel like antisemites and that giving Hotel Rwanda 10/10 is cheaper than giving € 10 to a charity. I guess Leon Festinger would have agreed.

Testing this hypothesis requires a measure of people's enjoyment of a film other than self-report. Neuroscientist, we're counting on you!


Andy McKenzie said...

I like this--it seems to be the most reasonable explanation for why Crash is so successful on imdb. Although it has fallen of late.

LemmusLemmus said...

Heh! As it happens, Crash is one of my favourite films of the last ten years. Which does not imply you're wrong. However, in political terms it is somewhat complicated given that it has both been seen as a liberal indictment of racism and perhaps the most honest movie yet about how America's racial patterns in crime generate corrosive, but sadly accurate, ethnic prejudices.