People had never before seen pictures move. This utterly naïve audience could not help but register as "real" the eerie specter on the screen. The most magical, powerful event in film history may well have been these very first moments in Paris, because the realization that what the eye saw was merely an illusion had not registered with any of the viewers. So far as they–and their brain's perceptual system–were concerned, the images on the screen were reality.
As one movie critic points out, "The dominating impression that this is real is a large part of the primitive power of the art form," even today. That sense of reality continues to ensnare filmgoers because the brain responds to the illusion created by the film with the same circuitry as it does to life itself. Even onscreen emotions are contagious.
Excerpted from Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman Copyright © 2006 by Daniel Goleman. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.