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Why you can’t take a pigeon to the movies

By Siu-Lan Tan
Films trick our senses in many ways. Most fundamentally, there’s the illusion of motion as “moving pictures” don’t really move at all. Static images shown at a rate of 24 frames per second can give the semblance of motion. Slower frame rates tend to make movements appear choppy or jittery. But film advancing at about 24 frames per second gives us a sufficient impression of fluid motion.

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OK Go: Is the Writing on the Wall?

By Siu-Lan Tan
When I saw OK Go’s ‘The Writing’s on the Wall’ video a few days ago, I was stunned. If you aren’t one of the over eight million people that has seen this viral music video yet, you’re in for a visual treat. OK Go is known for creative videos, but this is the band’s richest musical collage of optical illusions so far.

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Splash! What kids discover in a puddle

By Siu-Lan Tan
It’s spring and about this time each year, a little ritual takes place. After the winter melt, many children encounter their first puddle with the zeal of an explorer discovering a new land.

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Mini maestro mystifies me

By Siu-Lan Tan
Sometimes you think you can explain something, and then it turns out you really can’t. This remarkable video was posted last year but only went viral in the US in the last few weeks, approaching 5 million hits in a short time. When I first saw it, I was immediately enchanted.

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What’s the secret to high scores on video games?

By Siu-Lan Tan
When playing video games, do you play better with the sound on or off? Every gamer may have an opinion—but what has research shown? Some studies suggest that music and sound effects enhance performance. For instance, Tafalla (2007) found that male gamers scored almost twice as many points while playing the first-person shooter game DOOM with the sound on (chilling music, weaponfire, screams, and labored breathing) compared to those playing with the sound off.

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Why do polar bear cubs (and babies) crawl backwards?

By Siu-Lan Tan
This YouTube video of a three-month-old polar bear taking his first wobbly steps at the Toronto Zoo was viewed over 4.5 million times in the first four days of it being posted, and is sprouting all over the internet. Something I noticed immediately is that the baby polar bear is mostly crawling backwards. Many (human) infants do the same – crawling backwards for a few weeks before they crawl forwards.

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Landfill Harmonic: lessons in improvisation

By Siu-Lan Tan
On the first day of class in my ‘Psychology of Music’ course, I often ask students to create their own musical instruments. The catch is… they have to make them out of whatever they happen to have in their backpacks and pockets that day!

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Three reasons why we’re drawn to faces in film

By Siu-Lan Tan
If we were to measure looking time (for instance, with an eye-tracking device), we would probably find that most people would scan all the pictures, but focus mostly on the frames with the faces. Even though the exterior shots and full-figure frames are more complex and colorful, our gaze would tend to fix on the faces.

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Why does this baby cry when her mother sings?

By Siu-Lan Tan
This mesmerizing video has received over 21 million views, and is spreading rapidly through social media. The baby is 10 month-old Mary Lynne Leroux, who weeps as her mother Amanda sings My Heart Can’t Tell You No, a song most recently popularized by Sara Evans.

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Gravity: developmental themes in the Alfonso Cuarón film

By Siu-Lan Tan
Spoiler Alert: This article includes plot details from the film. Watching Gravity as a professor who teaches child psychology, I could not help but see the developmental themes that resonate with this film. One of the luminous images that lingered with me long after the film ended is the scene in which Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is nestled in the safety of a spacecraft following a grueling battle for her life. 

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How film music shapes narrative

By Siu-Lan Tan
Reflecting on his futuristic 2002 film Minority Report, Steven Spielberg said “one of the most exciting scenes” he had to shoot was this action scene – in which two characters (John and Agatha) traverse a busy shopping mall with armed police in pursuit, relying on Agatha’s ability to see into the future in order to hide and successfully evade capture.

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