An Inclination for Intimacy: Depictions of Mental Health and Interpersonal Interaction in Popular Film

Julius Matthew Riles, Michelle Funk, Brandon Miller, Ethan Morrow


One of the most potent influences on normative interpersonal behaviors is entertainment media (e.g., film). Evidence has long suggested that the portrayal of individuals managing mental health concerns is associated with erratic and violent behavior. Such health-framing tendencies could influence consumers’ mental models, prototype scripts, and other behavioral expectations about social interaction involving someone with a mental health condition. To date, however, no prior study has provided an interaction analysis of discrete instances of social engagement in popular media as they pertain to interactions involving someone who is managing mental illness relative to those interactions that do not. Here, we undertake this task, observing disproportionate schematic associations of mental illness with relatively more intimacy—in terms of topic, setting, and relationship types, among other characteristics—within film with mental health portrayal emphases. Implications for these patterns are discussed.


mental health, interaction analysis, film

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