Skip to content

The Cinematograph a Stimulous to the Use of the Brain.

February 19, 2011

The Moving Picture World ran a regular column called “In the Educational Field.” 100 years ago (plus one day), the author for that column made some claims about the cinema that may sound familiar to those of you have follow the rhetoric about new media and children.

While last week attention was drawn to the fact that the cinematograph would become helpful in an educational manner by concentrating the faculties, we are able now further to speak of it as a help to the use of the brains. Professor G. P. Baker, Professor of Literature in Harvard University, in a lecture recently said: “Moving pictures are good for the brain and stimulate the imagination: one is compelled to use his brain to fill out the parts not given on the film, and the fact that the brain must be so used is an argument in the picture’s favor.”

The writer of this article has made it a special practice to take several intelligent children with him, for the especial purpose of studying their receptive attitude when viewing the pictures. To say that the results were interesting would not fully describe them; they were positively extraordinary;; very often the young people could see points almost obscure to their elders; and occasionally could predict the forthcoming effects. Nowhere else can it be found that such rapid comprehension exists, making the cinematograph a marvel in its powers of concentration, imagination and comprehensiveness.

– MOVING PICTURE WORLD  8, no. 7 (18 February 1911): 352.

Interestingly, this Harvard professor was expressing ideas that were similar to those of another Harvard professor, Hugo Münsterberg, who would go on to publish one of the founding texts of film theory in 1916 — The Photolay: A Psychological Study.

Here’s a totally unrelated picture that appeared in the same issue, because I liked it.


MOVING PICTURE WORLD 8, no. 7 (18 February 1911): 355.


From left to right, this cartoon depicts the heads of the Independent companies who combined to distribution interests in the Motion Picture Distributing and Sales Company, as well as some other folks (I’m not totally clear on the context, and I’d welcome input from my readers). First there’s Hiram Abrams (of the Sales Company ?), then Herb Miles of Atlas; Pat Powers of Powers Picture Company; Charles Bauman of Reliance and the New York Motion Picture Company; Carl Laemmle of IMP; Mark M. Dintenfass of Champion Film Company; David Horsley of Nestor; Arthur Johnson; F. H. Richardson, writer for the Moving Picture World; and George Magie of Solax.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2011 11:15 pm

    I didn’t know some still called it the “cinematograph” as late as 1911.

    • Naïve Spectator permalink*
      July 19, 2011 7:08 pm

      Funny you should mention this today, as I was just reading Victor Freeburg’s 1918 Art of Photoplay Making, in which he uses the term, which seems a curious and outdated choice for 1918, especially for Americans who liked to believe that Edison was the sole genius behind the moving picture and often ignored or discounted Lumieres. Since I embarked on this project, I’ve definitely noticed that “moving picture” and “motion picture” are the terms of choice for 1911 at least.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: