Emotional Responses to Aesthetically Integrated and Standard Subtitles in a Fantasy-Thriller Audiovisual Context





subtitles, fantasy-thriller, psychophysiology, emotion, skin conductance, heart rate


Situated at the intersection of Psychology, Film studies, Accessibility Studies and Translation Studies, this article investigates the emotional correlates of two types of subtitles (standard and aesthetically integrated) on audiences in the context of fear-eliciting clips with Russian fantasy thriller Night Watch (Bekmambetov, 2004). Our experiment employed a methodology combining electrodermal activity (EDA), heart-rate responses (HR) and self-reports (questionnaires) to account for the complex interplay between experiential, cognitive, behavioural and physiological elements that make up emotional responses. We examined the psychophysiological and self-report responses to two subtitling delivery effects – standard subtitles and aesthetically integrated subtitles – focussing specifically on fear. We used significance-testing and Bayesian analyses to compare the two subtitling deliveries. For both analyses, we found that the presentation of aesthetically integrated subtitles led to higher positively rated psychophysiological arousal and quality of viewing experience ratings compared to standard subtitles. This novel finding suggests that aesthetically integrated subtitles could be the future of audiovisual translation.

Lay Summary

This study explored how different types of subtitles affect how our viewing experience and how we feel while watching films. The researchers showed clips one might consider emotionally arousing/scary from a Russian film (Night Watch, a 2004 film by Timur Bekmambetov) in three different ways: no subtitles, regular subtitles displayed at the bottom of the screen, and artistic subtitles that blended in with the film’s visual language and story. In our article, we call these subtitles ‘aesthetically integrated subtitles’.

The researchers measured how people reacted physically (sweat glands activity, faster heart rate) and asked - using questionnaires - the participants about their viewing experience and how emotionally aroused/scared they felt. Interestingly, the participants who watched the clips with the aesthetically integrated subtitles responded with higher positively rated physiological arousal and also reported that the experience was more emotionally arousing/scary and enjoyable. This suggests that aesthetically integrated subtitles could provide a new way to translate or create films that are more accessible and emotionally engaging for viewers.


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Author Biographies

Francesca Leveridge, University of Exeter

Dr Francesca Leveridge is Lecturer in French at The University of Exeter (UK) and was previously based at the University of Nottingham, where she was awarded her PhD in Translation Studies in 2023. Francesca teaches film and subtitling at undergraduate and Masters level and has recently co-designed a new postgraduate module titled 'Translation and Communication for Accessibility', which, using the museum as case study and laboratory, will focus on integrated subtitling, audio description and EasyRead. In addition to accessible multimodal museum communication, Francesca has a particular interest in the work of filmmakers, artists and access workers developing novel approaches to the translation of sound and image in both live and recorded performances.

Pierre-Alexis Mevel, University of Nottingham

Dr Pierre-Alexis Mével is Associate Professor in Translation Studies at The University of Nottingham (United Kingdom) and is the creator and director of the MA in Translation Studies. He teaches Audiovisual Translation and Media Accessibility at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. He is the author of a monograph entitled 'Can We Do the Right Thing? Subtitling African American English into French (Peter Lang, 2017) and has published extensively in the field of audiovisual translation. He has a particular interest in the representations of non-standard varieties in visual media, and on the design and reception of creative captioning for the screen as well as live performances. He is currently working on several funded projects on the affective reception of different types of subtitles and on accessible dancing.

Myron Tsikandilakis, University of Nottingham

Professor Myron Tsikandilakis works for the Medical, and Psychology Schools at the University of Nottingham. He started his academic training with a BA and an MA in Philosophy. He went on to complete several MA and MSc degrees, a medical training and two PhDs in Psychiatry and one in Neuroscience. He rarely practises his clinical qualifications anymore and instead he professionally tinkers with code, statistics, mathematics, psychophysics, psychophysiology and all kinds of experimental methods, and enjoys them greatly.




How to Cite

Leveridge, F., Mevel, P.-A., & Tsikandilakis, M. (2024). Emotional Responses to Aesthetically Integrated and Standard Subtitles in a Fantasy-Thriller Audiovisual Context . Journal of Audiovisual Translation, 7(1), 1–32. https://doi.org/10.47476/jat.v7i1.2024.266



Research articles