June 28, 2008

Under-18 girls are the most likely to appreciate Hitchcock

This will be the last on the movie tastes of teenagers. In the comments on the post showing that under-18 girls are most likely to dig good horror movies, culture buff Thursday remarked that the only artistic movies that showed up on the horror movie list were by Spielberg and Hitchcock. I'm not sure how well Spielberg is regarded by the snobs, but even they will admit that Hitchcock is a Real Art Director. So off we go to IMDb.com's filmography of Alfred Hitchcock page to see how well young girls appreciate the master of suspense.

As with the other posts in this series, I only included movies if at least 40 votes were cast in each female age group, which yielded 14 movies. For 13 of these 14, under-18 girls rated the movie the highest out of the four female age groups, and for the remaining one, they tied with 18-29 females in rating it the highest -- to be conservative, let's count this one against the hypothesis. Using a two-tailed binomial test as before, this result is statistically significant at the 3 x 10^(-7) level, obviously not a fluke. As before, I assume 18 and 19 year-olds are similar in tastes to the under-18s than the 20-somethings.

But Hitchcock directed lots of movies -- maybe the scores that were left out due to few votes being cast had greater artistic merit. First, the vast majority of these movies showed under-18 girls rating it the highest too, so including them would not alter the results. And second, the 14 movies that made the cut are virtually a list of his top 14 in the IMDb user ranking of his movies. They are:

Rear Window, Psycho, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Rebecca, Strangers on a Train, Notorious, Shadow of a Doubt, Dial M for Murder, The Lady Vanishes, Rope, The 39 Steps, The Birds, and To Catch a Thief.

Another potential criticism is that the under-18 voters may be less representative of their demographic than the older voters are -- perhaps the under-18s are composed mostly of precocious film nerds. This may be true to some extent, but there are convincing data that my findings do reflect true age differences in movie tastes. See Table 6 in this study of movie preferences by sex, race, and age groups.

The authors asked respondents to name their favorite movies, and then classified them by genre. As you can see, the "murder / thriller" category declines steadily in popularity as age increases, although it is never incredibly popular in any age group. And to refer back to the horror movie post, the data in Table 6 also show that "horror" declines steadily in popularity as age increases, as do "action / adventure" and "animation." The categories of "comedy" and "science fiction" peak among the 26 - 49 age group and are less popular with younger and older viewers. The categories that steadily increase in popularity with age are "drama," "musical," "Biblical," and "animal focus" ("Yes, son, that's what you have to look forward to.")

Basically, genres that excite your sympathetic nervous system are popular among young people and decline afterward, while boring movies are an acquired taste. (Compare the popularity of rollercoasters vs. walking through a sculpture garden.) It can't be that people appreciate slower-paced movies as they age, since mystery, murder, suspense, and thriller genres build tension through slow pacing (this is true for most good horror movies too). It also can't be that people appreciate more weighty, serious subject matter as they age, since the mystery-type genres treat human psychology, and action-adventure movies deal with large-scale conflict, glory, our bestial human nature, and other Big Important Themes that appeal mostly to males and are left out of the feminized school curriculum.

So invite that cute college coed over, sit close together while you watch Psycho, and make sure to give her a physical jolt with your hands during a tense moment. Feeling like she's survived a series of dangerous events with you will set fire to her loins, and all it costs you is $1 to rent a DVD overnight.


  1. Rear Window, Psycho, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Rebecca, Strangers on a Train, Notorious, Shadow of a Doubt, Dial M for Murder, The Lady Vanishes, Rope, The 39 Steps, The Birds, and To Catch a Thief.

    Except for Rebecca and Rope those are all pretty amazing films.

  2. Hmm. Maybe Under-18 girls are also the most likely to appreciate sleeping on pillows.


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