Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya.
You had me at hello.
Life is like a box of chocolates.
Luke, I am your father.
Every year, a handful of movie quotes become integrated into popular culture. What is it about them that makes them so memorable? Is it just that they bring up fond memories of the movie, or is there something about their structure that make them more likely to be remembered and passed on? A recent study from computer scientists at Cornell sheds some light on this.
In order to do this research, one first has to definite what one means by "memorable." These researchers decided to use quotes from the Memorable Quotes section of the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) as a way to identify enduring quotes.
First, the researchers wanted to see whether there was something about these quotes that distinguished them from non-memorable quotes. They had volunteers look at pairs of quotes from the same movie. One member of the pair was a “memorable quote” as defined by IMDb. The other was comparison quote spoken by the same character at approximately the same time as the memorable quote.
Could people tell the difference between memorable and nonmemerable quotes? Indeed, participants were above chance at identifying the memorable quotes, even though they had never seen the movies in question. So there does seem to be some thing about the memorable quotes that makes them recognizable even without the context of the movie itself.
Now that the researchers had some evidence that memorable quotes were intrinsically unique, they set about trying to figure out what made them different. They analyzed the member and non-memorable quotess, and this is what they found.
1. The memorable quotes used more distinctive vocabulary than their non-memorable counterparts.
2. The memorable quotes used more common syntactic patterns than non-memorable quotes.
3. The memorable quotes had some syntactic characteristics that might have made the quotes more generalizable to outside situations. For example, the memorable quotes had more present tense and less past tense, which might make them easier to quote in different contexts. They also had fewer pronouns than non-memorable quotes.
What are some of your favorite movie quotes? Do they follow these patterns?
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Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, Justin Cheng, Jon Kleinberg, & Lillian Lee (2012). You had me at hello: How phrasing affects memorability ACL 2012 arXiv: 1203.6360v1