Film characters’ Wants and Needs: A psycho-narratological model

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Although many film scholars describe characters’ psychological motivations as the backbone of the mainstream story, the exact nature and content of these motivations remains unclear. A common concept described in this context is that of a protagonist’s Want and Need. The present work seeks to better understand this concept by drawing from relevant constructs in social psychology, including goals, basic human needs, and the content and structure of personal values described in the Schwartz (1992) Theory of Basic Human Values. Integrating these
insights with relevant ideas from the film literature, a psycho-narratological model of Want and Need is developed. The model suggests that four conceptual levels - basic human needs, personal values, goals, and behaviours - need to be distinguished to understand characters’ motivations, their impact on the narrative, and how viewers understand them. The talk will present this model supported by a film example, including thoughts on how viewers identify a character’s Need before the character does so herself.
PeriodJun 2020
Event titleThe Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image - Conference 2020
Event typeConference
LocationGrand Rapids, United States, Michigan