Preliminary study 1: Complexity

In the first preliminary study of SIRUP we tried to identify indicators that predict the perceived complexity of a television program. During this project we work with broadcasting data from BBC’s ViSTA-TV project. Based on the available data from this project and the work of Daniel E. Berlyne, we identified three possible indicators for complexity (see Figure 1):

  • Number of credits (people involved in the production of a program)
  • Number of actors
  • Number of categories (amount of formats and genres of a program)

Figure 1. Testing the selected indicators for complexity

SIRUP Preliminary study 1, Complexity - Indicator testing

For all three indicators, a positive relationship was hypothesized, such that a higher number of credits, actors, and categories would positively predict the perceived complexity of the program (e.g., programs with more actors are perceived as more complex by users).

Using the BBC ViSTA-TV data, we selected the five programs with the lowest and highest number of credits, actors, and categories. As such, a total of 30 programs was rated by the participants. The selected programs can be found here: SIRUP Preliminary study 1, Complexity – Selected programs.

For each of the programs, participants were provided with a program episode description informing about the program title and season number, the episode number and title, and the episode synopsis, genre, format, and release year. Below an example of such a description is provided for the program Family Guy (low number of credits; see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Program episode description example Family Guy

SIRUP Preliminary study 1, Complexity - Example program description

For each of the programs participants were asked whether they had watched the program or not. If they had watched the program, they were asked to rate the perceived complexity of the program. If they had not watched the program, they were asked to rate the perceived complexity of the program based on its description. In both cases participants rated complexity on a 7-point semantic scale, with “simple” on the left and “complex” on the right (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Measure for complexity

SIRUP Preliminary study 1, Complexity - Measure complexity

Data were collected via Amazon Mechanical Turk and a total of 172 participants from the United States of America participated in the study. Unfortunately, the results showed that none of the indicators we selected was related to complexity. This means that the number of credits, actors, and categories of a program did not predict the perceived complexity of a program. This finding was replicated when we distinguished between participants that had watched the show and those that had not. More information about the results of the preliminary study for complexity can be found here: SIRUP Preliminary study 1, Complexity – Results.

In short, we have not yet successfully indentified indicators that predict the perceived complexity of a program. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please leave us a message below!

The dataset for the SIRUP preliminary study for complexity has been made publically available and can be found here: SIRUP Preliminary study 1, Complexity – Dataset.

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