ACMI Conversations

The Psychology of Fear

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About the talk

In our uncertain era full of real life horror, what's driving our appetite for true crime and fascination with the macabre? From recent documentaries The JinxMaking a Murderer and The Family to serial killer anti-heroes in film and TV, and the stark brutality of Scandi-noir, we examine our obsession with the dark side of human nature, the psychology of fear and how recent technological advances like biometric analysis are providing unique findings into our physiological response to on-screen horror.

About the panel

Penelope Thomas 

Penelope Thomas is Project Manager of Applied Industry Research at AFTRS. She has managed a number of research projects for the School starting including VR Noir, which premiered at VIVID Ideas 2016. Current projects include Biometrics on Audience Engagement, the AFTRS/CSIRO Data61 Media Index, and Precipice, a binaural narrative podcast project in collaboration with Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, WNYC (New York Public Radio) and BBC’s Audio Science Research Unit, which premiered at Vivid 2017.

Professor Nick Haslam

Nick Haslam is Professor of Psychology at the University of Melbourne. A graduate of the University of Melbourne, Nick received his PhD in clinical and social psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1993, and taught at the New School for Social Research in New York for several years before returning to Australia in 2002. Nick's research interests include personality, social perception and psychiatric classification, and he has published extensively in these areas. In addition to his academic writing Nick contributes regularly to The Conversation, where he is a columnist, and Australian Book Review, and he has also written for The Monthly, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Australian and two Best Australian Science Writing anthologies. Nick is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, a former member of the ARC College, a former Head of the School of Psychological Sciences at this university, and current President of the Society of Australasian Social Psychologists.   

Rosie Jones

Rosie Jones is an award-winning documentary writer, director and editor. Her most recent film, The Family, is an investigative work about the notorious Hamilton-Byrne cult that premiered at Melbourne International Film Festival in 2016. Previous films include The Triangle Wars, about an epic struggle over development on an iconic Australian foreshore, Westall '66: A Suburban UFO Mystery, an investigation of Australiaʼs biggest mass UFO sighting, and Obsessed with Walking, an exploration of psychogeography with writer Will Self. She has also edited numerous documentaries commissioned by Australian and international broadcasters.

Host, Emma Westwood

Emma Westwood is a film writer and commentator who was once arts editor for The Music (formerly Inpress). She is the author of two books on cinema – Monster Movies (Oldcastle Books, 2008) and The Fly (Auteur Publishing, upcoming in 2017), a monograph on David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake. She has written about cinema and the arts for publications such as The Age, Metro, The Big Issue, Diabolique and Senses of Cinema. She also co-hosts the weekly film criticism show Plato’s Cave on 3RRR.