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Depiction of Psychology in the Movie Alpha

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Psychology depicted in Hollywood films tends to be exaggerated, to the point where people question the film’s authenticity, but if it’s done right; it can make you see the world in a completely different perspective. Take movies like Fight Club, a movie about a guy suffering from insomnia, who meets a soap maker, and eventually forms a underground fight club. This movie flawlessly depicts how insomnia affects a person’s well-being. But for this assignment, we’re only allowed to choose a movie to analyse, that is not older than one year. Luckily, we’ve found a movie that we can analyse on, and that movie is called “ALPHA”. ALPHA is a movie about a young hunter who befriended a wolf, after he was assumed dead by his fellow tribesman, after a failed hunting attempt.

The movie starts out with tribesmen preparing for a hunting session, to prepare for the upcoming winter. The tribes chief trains his son, Keda and another boy for the hunt and is accepted into the hunting group. They eventually set out to hunt. On the first night, the campfire of the hunting party attracts the attention of a saber-tooth tiger, which then took Keda’s friend away. The party abandons their attempt of retrieving Keda’s friend. A memorial service was then given. After a while, the party discovers a herd of bison. Their attempt of diving the bisons off a cliff was a success but tragedy strikes back. In the midst of the stampede, Keda was knocked off a cliff by one of the bison and is left hanging with one hand. He eventually loses his grip and falls further down the cliff. His father attempts to rescue him but was stopped by one of the tribesmen, saying that he is dead. Keda eventually recovers from his injury and climbs back up to the cliff. He finds a memorial left for him by the hunting party. He realizes that he has to travel back to his village on foot. On the way back, he was engaged by a pack of wolves. He managed wound one of them, which the rest of the pack leaves. He took care of the wounded wolf because he felt pity for it. Keda gained the wolf’s trust overtime, essentially making him the dominant one, by feeding himself water and food first, before feeding the wolf.

This is where one of the PY211 topic kicks in. This is where classical conditioning appear, but before that; let’s see what classical conditioning is. Classical conditioning, by definition; is a training process that arises when two stimuli are frequently paired; a response that is at first brought out by the second stimulus is eventually brought out by the first stimulus alone. Here’s an example: Jim turns off his computer and asks Dwight if he wanted a mint. Dwight accepts his offer. The next day, Jim does the exact same thing and Dwight reaches out his hand to grab a mint from Jim, What Jim is doing is essentially conditioning Dwight to reach out his hand for a mint everytime after hearing the “shutdown” sound of Jim’s computer. Now, how is classical conditioning shown in “ALPHA”? It is shown in the feeding scene, after Keda’s encounter with the pack of wolves. Keda tries to gain trust with the wolf he injured and subsequently took care for. He instead fed himself first with water and food, to establish himself as the dominant one, then he proceeds to feed the wolf. How is this classical conditioning you ask? It is because now the wolf expects to be fed after Keda feeds himself first everytime.

Another instance of classical conditioning is showcased during the hunting scene, involving Keda and Alpha. Keda first whistles to Alpha, which signals Alpha to go and lure the wild boar to Keda, so he could kill it. There wasn’t a clear explanation of how Keda trained Alpha to after the wild boar with one whistle, but we’re assuming so because there’s no way Alpha would charge towards a boar from a whistle, without proper conditioning/training from Keda at the first place. It’s not only classical conditioning that’s included in the movie, but memory is also shown in the early and middle scenes of the movie. The first scene that involves memory is when Keda recovers himself from the fall and climbs back up from the cliff. He finds a pile of stones, stacked on top of each other, realizing that he has to travel back to his village alone, this is where memory kicks in. Because he was born and raised in his village, the tribe’s location is ingrained into his head. It’s like us remembering exactly where our homes are, what street or soi our house is located at.

Another instance of memory is when Keda was walking back to his village alone, he spots Alpha and the pack of wolves that attacked him earlier. He recognizes Alpha and instinctively runs to him. How did Keda recognize Alpha you say? Well, it’s because Keda is the one who took care of Alpha when she was injured. Keda fed her, both of them went hunting together. They were together for such a long time that the image of Alpha has been ingrained into Keda’s long-term memory. So after finding out these psychology topics (Classical conditioning and memory), one question remains, is it portrayed accurately? The group came to a consensus that it wasn’t really portrayed all that accurate. Even though we thought it wasn’t that accurate, we can guess or assume that it’s classical conditioning or memory, because we can take what we learned in class, and apply those knowledges to the movie and make guesses. Like sure, Keda feeds himself food and water before he feeds Alpha, because he wants to establish himself as the dominant one. That’s the main point of that particular scene, but because we learned about classical conditioning, we can accurately tell that, because Keda first fed himself; Alpha expects to be fed after Keda feeds himself. That is classical conditioning for you. As for memory, it’s pretty straight forward. Because Keda was born in that particular region that the film is taking place on, he knows all the geographic features of the terrain. An excellent example of this is when he discovered his people left a memorial stone, in honor of him. The first thing that came up in his mind is “I need to walk back to my village” and he does so right away.

After watching the movie and meticulously looking out for small details that might indicate classical conditioning and memory, the conclusion is that this movie, “ALPHA”, does a good job of illustrating psychology topics at a very subtle level. For watchers who has no background in psychology or have never learned about psychology and its topics before, catching these small details will be very hard, but if you at least have some idea of what classical conditioning and memory is, then meticulously observing for these details will be a lot easier. We also wished that this movie could have illustrated the two topics that have been mentioned a bit more clearly, maybe include scenes that show the training process between Alpha and Keda, but it might stretch the movie time a little too long, so we’ll leave that right there. Overall, this is a very good movie to watch but if you’re looking for a movie that displays psychology topics a little clearer, then this movie might not be for you. It’s still a fun movie though!

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