Short Films and Positive Thinking

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Short Films: How Can Short Films be used to Influence Positive Values in Youngsters?
Short Films and Positive Thinking
Children analyze in many different ways beginning with what they see, model or peer behavior, reading books and viewing films. The uniting component for both adults and children is to stay a life that is worthy in an equally accurate state. Positive character traits are necessary in ensuring well-being and movies are a proper source that can be used to develop exact character. Although films are considered inanimate and abstract, there is little help material given to those who may also wish to use them in sending positive messages to the childhood in particular. Short films are defined as those being 30 minutes or less in length, (Cooper & Dancyger, 2017). Such films in this paper are presented as powerful instruments that are able to promote selflessness and individual development. Films stimulate emotions; such emotions influence the way the youth learn and behave. Viewing a short film will allow a young person build empathy, and live the experience without having to undergo the real-life consequences. This paper will discuss short films as a positive strength, the justification for how short films can build character, the benefits of character building from films, and the criteria for positive psychology in youngsters. 24 character traits will be mentioned followed by discussion and a conclusion based on the potential of positive intervention for youngsters.

Short Films as Positive Media

Generally, negativity often tends to monopolize positivity. This condition in which there is a tendency is to interpret ambiguous stimuli or events as negative is regarded as negativity bias (Ito et al., 2017). This often results from the higher intensity associated with negativity. To counter this, there is –a positivity offset- that may be less noticeable but occurs quite often. It deals with moments that are inherently good, (Kuppens et al., 2016). The same happens with short films where violence, curses, and sex scenes appear to overpower positive characteristics. Indeed when children are exposed to violent films, they show aggressive behavior, (Wiedeman, Black, Dolle, Finney & Coker, 2015). These are real and there is a reason for worry. However, despite negative influences, youth can respond to positive influences with proper leadership and application of good strategy. Television viewing is a good example where most programming is tailored to favor good behavior as compared to the violent content sometimes shown which is often disregarded despite being seen. The explanation therein points to the preference by the youth to receive positive reinforcement for imitating good character that may include things such as smiling.

Indeed when individuals view positive, socially acceptable content, they end up emulating and doing the same. This kind of behavior is considered an elevation- an uplifting emotion felt when one observes a person helping another person and improving their happiness through an act of virtue. The result is the motivation to do good. To watch another person’s unselfish action raises elevation and altruistic behavior in the viewer thus is also raised, (Leeuw & Buijzen, 2016). As a result, the dominant opinion is that short films may increase positive behavior. This is called Cinematic elevation - the ability of movies to inspire selflessness. It is closely related to cinematic admiration – the ability of movies to promote self-improvement or goal setting. This usually occurs when one observes a skill or character which usually leads them to try to improve themselves and pursue similar goals. The question as to how desired behavior can be learned is answered by Bandura's social cognitive theory. It essentially argues that children learn through modeling the behavior of others, and this would include their parents, teachers, peers or even the characters they might come across in a short film.

Short films contribute significantly to supplementing learning especially in schools, colleges, and medical training schools. This is called cinemeducation, (Gorring, Loy & Spring, 2014). Students can benefit from this to enhance their learning especially in subjects such as history, English, and psychology although almost all subjects can find a way to utilize short films to enhance learning. Indeed, where children use film-assisted instruction, their knowledge increases. However, there is a need to ensure that instructors who use this method have competence in film pedagogy and selection taxonomy. Short films can help raise the interest of learners to the maximum as instructional aids yet some may not be as accurate as expected. This means that educators would then need to explain to learners where such misinformation is found. In so doing, they will not only minimize the problem but also clarify significant points related to the same. In conferences, short films can be used to teach the youth on various socio-psychological issues that affect them and society in general.

Apart from educational activities, short films can be used for cinematherapy. This is where a film is viewed by an individual or individuals who then get clues to some of the lifelong conflicts that they have been facing. Prescription of short films may help someone with psychological problems to use the imaginary emotional distance to externalize their problems or solutions and thus access behavior change that is non-threatening. It is necessary to consider three stages: assessment, implementation, and debriefing. For short films to help achieve this objective, it is important that a youth is only shown a film that is suitable. Their reaction to it should form the basis of discussion in order to process desired results. Short films, for instance, could, for example, be used by young people to identify and discuss emotions where parents are divorcing.

Films can help foster Entertainment-Education. This is the placing of educational messages in entertainment media. This means that short-films can be adapted and used to spread ideas to bring change both at social and behavioral levels. This is also based on Bandura’s social cognitive theory. Entertainment-Education is regarded as useful in instilling health prevention behavior and self-control in the youth.

Films and Feelings

Learning utilizes emotions and the almost all movies are marked by this characteristic. Films elicit emotions through contributory relations and intuitions. A good example is watching a clip on injustice. First, it would lead to anger, then a sense of loss and ultimately sadness. How the scene is set, the music used, timing and the facial expressions of those in the film would contribute to the emotional appeal. Indeed, it would appear that all films have the ultimate goal of enhancing mood management- that is, the pleasure of release. Even then, this is a short-term affect, in the long term, short films can also produce a long-term affect and result in behavior changes. One’s positive emotions can multiply into a spiral and transform current positive emotion into positive resources to be used in a difficult future interval.

Subjective well-being – feeling satisfaction at a given point in time, is also called short-term happiness. Long-term psychological well-being is less fleeting and the more desirable. To describe this expressiveness requires meaning, purpose and a righteous life. Short term happiness is characterized by low negative and high positive affect while long-term happiness is based on growth, accepting oneself and having a purpose in life. This framework of long term and short term results of watching short films is critical in giving them a supporting line of argument.

The mood management theory supports the short term satisfaction that is seen when individuals choose films for insight rather than just pleasure. Preference for entertainment is often seen when someone is in a tender affective state. It is usually characterized by warmth, sympathy, and understanding. For short films that focus on entertainment, the overall experience is usually that of a happy or cheerful viewing opportunity. However, this cannot be the only reason to watch films. People also use them for self-escape, pleasure, and self-development. Indeed, both self-escape and pleasure point to short-term happiness while self-development is long-term. As such, when one watches a sad film, it does not mean that one is attracted to sad occurrences but rather can connect with others or their affairs deeply and have an interpretation of issues that go beyond the ordinary common view that many hold. Rather than providing a momentary diversion, short films can provide a long-term positive effect which is a useful result.

Throughout an individual’s life, there are changes that influence the kind of film they want to watch. This is often based on values, emotions, behavior, and age. Youth, for example, have time to watch as a way to have fun or simply escape boredom. Whereas older people may prefer to watch short films that are contemplative and uplifting, Young people often may select films based on short-term happiness. In a family setting, this may lead to disagreement regarding which is the best film to watch. The resolution to this may form mutual connections and foster partnership among family members.

Empathy and Film Stories

The sense of getting lost in a film – immersing oneself into the story or actor makes people to even lose track of time. This phenomenon is called narrative transportation, (Igartua & Barrios, 2012). Whichever the art medium utilized, there are aspects of personal growth, maturation, and self-expression. When one watches a movie, it is easy for them to put themselves into the shoes of those others without partaking of their actual suffering experience. The result is empathy. Films have the potential to activate more senses, especially visual and audio. This makes films more powerful than other literary tools. The reality of character and narrative immersion, visual depiction of the emotions of the characters all attract in youth and other viewers a deeply empathetic feeling.

Empathy requires an individual to maintain a critical self-identity that has dissimilarities with emotion septicity and compassion. The goal is to separate empathy for fictional characters. Individuals would then have to have a connection to characters while keeping a reasonable emotional distance to achieve empathy. This differentiation helps prevent emotional contamination whereby someone viewing a short film would experience emotions as if they were their own. As opposed to sympathy where one can have concern without sharing the other individual’s experience. Empathy, therefore, can arise in the absence of sympathy with regard for the character’s consequences.

Insight into this kind of empathy has a baseline of sameness. In each short film than individual watches, one connects with a diverse group of people that he/she would not normally relate with. Empathy comes in as a result of cinematic elevation- the promotion of altruistic behavior as a result of watching a movie. In medical students, this could serve to develop selflessness, empathy, and understanding towards their patients. Since a significant number of these might be youth, it is wise to then say that such learners would then experience emotion without responsibility.

Immersion into character experience without consequence

As one watches a sad short film, they may get emotional and end up crying. Although the fictional sad film may be unreal, tears shed are the same and the level of sadness would not be affected regardless of whether the story is true or untrue. Nonetheless, if a story is true, there would be high levels of both anxiety and sadness. The immersion into the experience characters in a sad movie is as true as in a real-life experience yet without anxiety. Watching a short film would, therefore, allow one to experience sadness without the compulsion to feel apprehensive.

Given the potential that one can experience a character's feelings without having to suffer the consequences, short films can thus be exploited both for entertainment value and as an educational tool. With youths, parents and guardians may use films as a tool. They can watch the film with the teens and interrogate them afterward. The purpose of this would be to encourage far-sightedness and desirable health prevention habits by allowing them to immerse into perilous experiences without suffering related consequences. Such an experience, therefore, would turn any youth into an individual capable of making better and safer choices rather than considering unsafe behavior as worth emulating. Short films on topics regarding unintended teen pregnancy and other issues affecting the youth would best be learned through such a mode.

Short Films for Building Character

Films can be used to teach youth on character strengths and positive psychology. Good character is key to overall well-being. To flourish, one needs to focus on developing these strengths instead of struggling to improve weaknesses. Each character strength can be overused or underused. Therefore, it is better to focus on strengths while they are either being overused or underused. A good example is humor - overuse can be inappropriate while underuse can result in a too serious personality. Each individual has signature strengths that are core and essential to a person, (Linkins, Niemiec, Gillham & Mayerson, 2014). If an individual learns to use these high strengths, their well-being can improve.

Once individuals develop positive psychology- a key component of long-term happiness, focus will shift from short-term gratification to long-term flourishing. For example in medicine, doctors would stop focusing on treating and instead concentrate on promoting good health behavior. When individuals watch films, they will end up developing their character strengths through them.

Through short movies, the youth can be able to identify role models and mentors. Role models are critical for young people. Heroes fall here and their journey which is made up of: An epic adventure, obstacles to overcome and their successful triumph over the said obstacles. Young people also gain self-control when they model peers who can be alternative heroes and heroines. It becomes necessary therefore to find exemplars and then share with peers what these do differently from them. The youth are more likely to listen to peer advice than authority figures.

Through identification of other peoples character strengths, individual awareness and strength develop. To recognize and think about individual strengths requires one to do the same in others. There is also a need for fluency in the language used for such discourse. To spot strengths is to put oneself in the shoes of others and to see their view. This usually leads to tolerance and empathy. The outcome is cohesion, positive affect, autonomy and strength use, all with low friction. The identification of such character strengths in short films can help families make use of resources and experience favorable outcomes for the youth.

The youth have a high attraction to media which occupies their mind on each day. This implies that video entertainment forms an integral part of their everyday living. Since this form of entertainment is widely available and accessible on a daily basis, there needs to be a point at which parents and children meet to discuss this. Parents will always want to properly connect with their children and discuss various things that may include movies. Such may lead to the exclusion of other questions for which there is no meeting point and other yes and no questions.

Short films can develop connections that are critical for youths. They may promote a selfless personal development through cinematic elevation, self-improvement, and goal setting that cinematic admiration. If parents, educators, and youths can share their concerns, interpreting any short film can help them to a large extent.

Positive Psychology at the Movies

A short film that has the potential to create behavior change has certain characteristics which include: Characters displaying at least one of the 24 identified character strengths, (Ruch, Weber, Park & and Peterson†, 2014), the character facing obstacles, adversity, and struggle or conflict while expressing strength, the character overcoming challenges or building/maintaining the strength, and the movie being uplifting in tone or mood, or is one that reflects human condition.

Motion Picture Association of America Ratings

When analyzing short films as developers of character strengths for youths, a movie might not be appropriate for everyone. Therefore, the Motion Picture Association rates movies based on violence, language, sex or drug use portrayals, (Barranco, Rader & Smith, 2016). Acceptable presentations suitable for parents, youth and educators would generally fall in the first four categories: G, PG, PG-13, and R. G means General Audience, PG stands for Parental Guidance, PG-13 means Parents Strongly Cautioned while R stands for Restricted, meaning anyone under 17 years would require parental/guardian to accompany them.

There are a number of virtues that can be learned from movies. These include wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. Each of these virtues has character strengths. Wisdom supports five character strengths: creativity, curiosity, judgment, love of learning and perspective. Courage supports four: bravery, perseverance, honesty, and zest. Humanity covers three: love, kindness and social intelligence. Justice has three: teamwork, fairness, and leadership. The last virtue transcendence has five character strengths which are: appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, and spirituality. In total there are 24 character strengths.

The PERMA model by Seligman which has five pillars: Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, meaning and Achievement as grounds of a prosperous life, (Kern, Waters, Adler & White, 2014). Each is independent and measurable. Each individual can concentrate on the component that works best for him or her. In his model, it is believed that good life can be achieved by all and sundry.

Positive interventions are precise and evidence-based, and they help people get more of what they want. Therefore, such interventions not only increase the well-being of the individual but also for the organization. Young people need tools that can help them flourish from opportunities and learn how to cope with problems. In learning good behavior, several ways may be used to achieve flourish. To increase hope, love and coping skills, interventions are necessary. These can help to further enhance the character strengths.

In conclusion, the use of short film among the youth can help transform and shape behavior significantly. This will however largely depend on the kind of movie, the interrogation of an elder and the proper interpretation of the film. Proper emotion should result in positive psychology and whose outcome is an appreciation of one or several of the character strengths highlighted.


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Cooper, P., & Dancyger, K. (2017). Writing The Short Film (3rd ed., p. 1). Oxford: Taylor & Francis.

Gorring, H., Loy, J., & Spring, H. (2014). Cinemeducation: using film as an educational tool in mental health services. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 31(1), 84-88.

Igartua, J., & Barrios, I. (2012). Changing Real-World Beliefs With Controversial Movies: Processes and Mechanisms of Narrative Persuasion. Journal Of Communication, 62(3), 514-531.

Ito, T., Yokokawa, K., Yahata, N., Isato, A., Suhara, T., & Yamada, M. (2017). Neural basis of negativity bias in the perception of ambiguous facial expression. Scientific Reports, 7(1).

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Leeuw, R. N., & Buijzen, M. (2016). Introducing positive media psychology to the field of children, adolescents, and media. Journal of Children and Media, 10(1), 39-46. doi:10.1080/17482798.2015.1121892

Linkins, M., Niemiec, R., Gillham, J., & Mayerson, D. (2014). Through the lens of strength: A framework for educating the heart. Taylor and Francis. Retrieved 26 September 2017, from

Ruch, W., Weber, M., Park, N., & and Peterson†, C. (2014). Character Strengths in Children and Adolescents. European Journal Of Psychological Assessment, 30(1), 57-64.

Wiedeman, A., Black, J., Dolle, A., Finney, E., & Coker, K. (2015). Factors influencing the impact of aggressive and violent media on children and adolescents. Aggression And Violent Behavior, 25, 191-198.

July 24, 2021


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