Masks are required as the campus is at red status.

Joseph Anderson, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor Emeritus

Ph.D., University of Iowa, 1974.  Psychology of Visual Communication

M.A., University of Iowa, 1965.  Painting/Art History.

B.A., University of Iowa, 1964.   Art.

Louisiana State University, 1959-62.

Tulane University, 1958-59.

North Little Rock High School (National Merit  Finalist 1958)


Joseph Anderson is Professor Emeritus of  Mass Communication and Theatre at the University of Central Arkansas.  He holds a Ph.D. in the psychology of visual communication from the University of Iowa, along with masters degrees in film and painting.  He has taught motion picture production at the Universities of Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin and spent more than a dozen years working in the motion picture industry.  He has created educational films for Time, Inc., and as president of Anderson-Hart Productions directed the development and production of feature-length motion pictures.  His most recent credits include Executive Producer for The Old Gray Lady: Arkansas’ First Newspaper (2006), and Executive Producer, for Is You Is: A Louis Jordan Story (2008), and The Crisis Mr. Faubus Made (2010).

Anderson has conducted laboratory research in visual perception at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Iowa and Georgia State University, and is author of The Reality of Illusion: An Ecological Approach to Cognitive Film Theory (1996),  Moving Image Theory: Ecological Considerations (2005), and theNarration and Spectatorship in Moving Images (2008).

The Reality of Illusion: An Ecological Approach to Cognitive Film Theory

Anderson’s primary argument is that motion picture viewers mentally process the projected images and sounds of a movie according to the same perceptual rules used in response to visual and aural stimuli in the world outside the theater. To process everyday events in the world, the human mind is equipped with capacities developed through millions of years of evolution. In this context, Anderson builds a metatheory influenced by the writings of J. J. and Eleanor Gibson and employs it to explore motion picture comprehension as a subset of general human comprehension and perception, focusing his ecological approach to film on the analysis of cinema’s true substance: illusion. Anderson investigates how viewers, with their mental capacities designed for survival, respond to particular aspects of filmic structure – continuity, diegesis, character development, and narrative – and examines the ways in which rules of visual and aural processing are recognized and exploited by filmmakers. He uses Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane to disassemble and redefine the contemporary concept of character identification; he addresses continuity in a shot-by-shot analysis of images from Casablanca; and he uses a wide range of research studies, such as Harry F. Harlow’s work with infant rhesus monkeys, to describe how motion pictures become a substitute or surrogate reality for an audience. By examining the human capacity for play and the inherent potential for illusion, Anderson considers the reasons viewers find movies so enthralling, so emotionally powerful, and so remarkably real.

Moving Image Theory: Ecological Considerations

This collection is unique for two reasons.  First, and most importantly, it is the only book I know of that includes contributions from both film scholars and practicing, experimental psychologists.  Second, most of the contributions are in the vein of ecological psychology, an approach begun by James Gibson that focuses on the interactions between animal and environment.

Cognitive film theory is a radical, new way to understand film viewing and filmmaking.  The ecological approach of this collection goes even farther.  If cognitive film theory is seen as an attempt to make film an empirically accessible subject, the ecological approach transforms the way film can be studied empirically.  Even those readers who are not convinced that the ecological approach is ultimately correct will have gained new insight, altering the way they think about film viewing forever, just by seeing the ecological approach in action. –Tony Chemero

Narration and Spectatorship in Moving Images

Joseph Anderson and Barbara Fisher Anderson, founders of the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image (SCSMI), have collected papers from the 2006 SCSMI conference in Potsdam, Germany. They offer a selection of essays that should appeal to students and scholars in a number of disciplines: media theory, media psychology, cognitive science, computer graphics, philosophy, and literary theory, and to the general reader who is curious about how moving images work and affect us all.


Professor Emeritus.  2009 – Present.

Chair, Department of Mass Communication and Theatre, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, AR.  July, 2002 – 2009.

Associate Professor, Moving Image Studies program, Department of Communication, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA.  1998-2002.

Associate Professor, Department of Theatre and Film, University of Kansas. 1991-1998.

Visiting Professor, Department of Communication Studies, University of Iowa.  1990-91.

President, Anderson-Hart Productions, Austin, Texas.  1985-90.

Vice President, Texas Pacific Film/Video, Austin, Texas. 1984-85.

Freelance  Writer/producer/editor.  1979-84.

Assistant Professor, Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison.  1974-79.

Instructor, University of Iowa, Department of Speech and Dramatic Art.  1971-74.

Producer/Director, Time Inc., New York, N.Y.  1967-71.

Instructor, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  1965-66.



Narration and Spectatorship in Moving Images.  Joseph D. Anderson and Barbara Fisher Anderson, Eds.  Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007.

Moving Image Theory: Ecological Considerations.  Joseph D. Anderson and Barbara Fisher  Anderson, Eds.  Carbondale:  Southern Illinois University Press, 2005.  Paperback edition, 2006.

The Reality of Illusion: An Ecological Approach to a Cognitive Film Theory. Carbondale:  Southern Illinois University Press, 1996.  Paperback edition , 1998.


“The Reality of Illusion” in Evolution, Literature and Film: A Reader. Edited by Brian Boyd, Joseph Carroll and Jonathan Gottschall. Columbia University Press, 2010, pp.246-257

“Character in Citizen Kane” in Evolution, Literature and Film: A Reader. Edited by Brian Boyd, Joseph Carroll and Jonathan Gottschall. Columbia University Press, 2010, pp.409-415.

“Moving Through the Diegetic World of the Motion Picture,” in Film Style and Story, Lennard Hojbjerg & Peter Schepelern, editors.  Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen, 2003, pp. 11-21.

“The Case for An Ecological Metatheory.” (with Barbara Anderson)  in Post Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies, eds. David Bordwell and Noel Carroll, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996.

“Motion Perception in the Motion Picture,” (with Barbara Anderson)  in The Cinematic Apparatus. S. Heath and T. DeLauretis, eds. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1980, pp. 76-95.


“Scene and Surface in the Cinema: Implications for Realism,” Cinémas (Cinéma et cognition), Vol 12, No 2, Winter 2002,  61-73.

“El realismo y la concussion de la atencion,”  Signo y Pensamiento, Vol. XVIII, No. 35 (December 1999), 33-38.

“The perception of scene and surface in motion pictures” in Perception and Action, David N. Lee, editor (International Society for Ecological Psychology, 1999), p. 102.  [ Abstract ]

“The Case for an Ecological Metatheory” reprinted in Metropolis (Budapest, Hungary, 1999), 34-39.

“I Dream of J.J. or Affordances and Motion Pictures.”  La revue electronique de communication/The Electronic Journal of Communication  5,1 (1995).  Available by E-mail:  Message: send Anderson V5N195.

“A Cognitive Approach to Continuity,” Post Script, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Fall 1993), pp. 61-66.

“The Myth of Persistence of Vision Revisited,” Journal of Film and Video, Vol. 45, No. 1 (Spring 1993), pp. 3-12. (with Barbara Anderson)

“Sound and Image Together: Cross-Modal Confirmation,” Wide Angle Vol. 15, No.1, pp. 30-43. (January 1993)

“Between Veridicality and Illusion,” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Vol VI, No.2 (Spring, 1992), pp. 173-182.

“The Myth of Persistence of Vision,” Journal of the University Film Association, XXX, 4 (Fall, 1978), pp. 3-8. (with Barbara Fisher)

“Binocular Integration in Line Rivalry,” Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 1978, Vol. 11 (6), pp. 399-402. (with Harold Bechtoldt and Gregory Dunlap)

“What’s In a Flicker Film?”  Communication Monographs 43:1 (March, 1976), pp. 29-34. (with Edward Small)

“Visualization and Verbalization as Mediators of Thought,” Speech Monographs, 41 (1974), pp. 408-412.


Keynote Address, “We Were Not Designed to Watch Movies: The Value of an Ecological Approach to Film Theory in a Post-Postmodern Era,” VIII Conference of Cinema Studies in Transylvania,  Sapienta Hungarian University of Transylvania, May 23-25, 2005.  Kolozsvar-Cluj Napoca, Romania.

Keynote address, “Toward a Theory of Moving Images, ” 11th Laterna Film Academy, “Motion, Sound, Image and Emotion,”  May 20-21, 2005.  Pecs, Hungary.

Invited lecture, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Communication Arts: “The Ecological Approach to Cognitive Film Theory,” December 4, 2002.

Invited “University Lecture,” Cornell University::  “Realism and the Perception of Artifacts in Motion Pictures,”  November 9, 2000. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

Invited lecture “Rethinking Realism,” for Animation Lab, Graphics, Visualization and Usability Center, Georgia Tech, December 14, 1999.

Magika Lanterna lecture series: “Ecological Film Theory.”  Eight lectures,  Janus Pannonius University; Pecs, Hungary;  November 8-11 and November 15-18, 1999.  By special invitation.

Invited lecture, Eotvos University, Budapest, Department of Communication and Aesthetics, “An Ecological View of Moving Images,” November 12, 1999.

Invited lecture, University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Lecture to the University of  Wisconsin Film Colloquium entitled “Why is ‘Invisible Editing’ So Difficult to See?”  April 18, 1996.

Invited lecture, University of Kansas, Department of Spanish and Portuguese. “The Hollywood System and Its Practices of Continuity Editing.” April 1, 1996.

“How Conventional is the Classical Hollywood Cinema?” Lecture given as part of “The American Cine-Century: Mapping a Medium,”  sponsored by the Hall Center for the Humanities, University of Kansas. February 27, 1996


“Concepts in an Ecological Theory of Film,” paper presented at 4th International Conference of the Center for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI, July 23, 2004.

Chair, “Moving Image Theory: Ecological Considerations,” panel at “Narration, Imagination and Emotion in Moving Image Media,” the 4th International Conference of CCSMI, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI, July 22-24, 2004.

“Differences in Intensity of Emotional Responses to Film Special Effects,” paper presented at 109th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Div. 10, San Francisco, CA, August 24-28, 2001. (With Ben Meade)

“Perceiving Simulated Human Motion,” paper presented at the Eleventh International Conference on Perception and Action, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, June 28, 2001.

“Information and Misinformation,” paper presented at the Third Biennial International Symposium of the Center for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image, University of Pécs, Hungary.  May 21-25, 2001

“Graphic Violence Special Effects in Film: The Role of Realism”   Benjamin Meade, Joseph Anderson, Suzanne Petren, and William Evans.  Presented at 108th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C.  August 8, 2000.

“Events and Affordances: How Are They Related?”  Panel at 2000 North American Meeting of the International Society for Ecological Psychology, Clemson University, Clemson, S.C.  June 23, 2000.

“The Perception of Scene and Surface in Motion Pictures,” paper presented at the Tenth International Conference on Perception and Action, Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, Scotland.  August 13, 1999

“Cognitive Film Theory in 1999:  What We’ve Found Out,” a paper presented at “Film, Mind and Viewer,” a symposium on cognitive film theory, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.  May 27, 1999.

“Guiding the Attention of Motion Picture Audiences,” a paper presented for the panel “Cognitive and Ecological Approaches to Film Theory” at the annual conference of the Society for Cinema Studies in West Palm Beach, Florida.  April 15, 1999.

“The Biological Boundaries of Moving Image Perception,” a paper presented at the annual conference of the University Film and Video Association in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  August 6, 1998.

“A Short History of Cognitive Science and Film Studies,” presented at the symposium “Cognitive Science and the Future of Film Studies,” sponsored by the Instutite for Cognitive Studies in Film and Video, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.  April 18, 1997.

“Rethinking Realism,” a paper presented at the annual conference of the University Film and Video Association in Keene, New Hampshire, August 4,1995.

“The Ontology of Synchronization: A Cognitive Approach,” a paper presented at the annual conference of the University Film and Video Association in Bozeman, Montana, August 1994.

“Toward an Ecology of Cinema” presented at Department of Theatre and Film Retreat, University of Kansas, October 13, 1993.

“From Jump Cut to Match Action: an ecological approach to film editing,” a paper presented at the annual conference of the University Film and Video Association in Philadelphia, August, 1993.

“A Cognitive Approach to Continuity,” a paper presented at the annual conference of the Society for Cinema Studies, February 1993.

“Cognitive Film Theory,” a topic panel chaired at the annual conference of the Society for Cinema Studies in New Orleans, February, 1993.

“Sound and Image in the Motion Picture: An Instance of Cross-Modal Confirmation.”  Panel presentation at the Ohio University Film Conference XIII (November, 1991; Ohio University, Athens, Ohio).

“Between Veridicality and Illusion.”  Panel presentation  at the Annual Conference of the University Film & Video Association (August, 1991; Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon).


The Crisis Mr. Faubus Made. Color, Sound, 30 min. Executive Producer, 2010.

Is You Is: A Louis Jordan Story.  Documentary film. Color, Sound, 60 min.  Executive Producer, 2008.

The Old Gray Lady: Arkansas’ First Newspaper.  Color, Sound, 90 min.  Executive Producer, 2006. 1955.  Color, Sound, 12 min. Editor.  1998.

Lawrence: Free State Fortress.  Color, Sound, 30 min.  Executive Producer.  1997.

Beyond the Golden Gate. 35mm, Color, Sound, 110 min. Producer/Editor. 1988.

One Way Out. 35mm, Color, Sound, 90 min.  Editor, Director/Austin Sequences. 1986-87.  Released in domestic market by Unicorn Video under title Crazed Cop.

Independence.  The official film of the Texas Sesquicentennial.  35mm, Color, Sound, 30 min. Associate Producer and Editor. 1985.

The Adventures of Jody Shanan.  35mm, Color, Sound, 96 minutes.  1983-84.  Producer and Editor.

Checking It Out.  P.B.S. magazine series (26  segments, color, sound, 30 min. each).  Editor.

Open the Gates:  The Vision of Hubert H. Humphrey. Democratic Convention Special, l980. (35mm, Color, Sound, 18 min.)  Editor.

The Intercessors. Dramatic narrative motion picture, l978.  (16mm, Color, Sound, 27 minutes). Producer and Editor.