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Senses: Watch and Burn

Why 3-D flicks might not be the best pick

Image: 3-D glasses in the trash

The Buddy Holly-esque 3-D glasses you don at the cinema might be hurting more than just your style. California State University researchers had students complete online questionnaires about their movie-viewing experience after watching a flick in either 2-D or 3-D. Their findings don’t paint the rosiest picture of pop-out flicks. Here are the team’s damning conclusions about 3-D movies.

They make your head hurt.

Moviegoers who saw a film in 3-D were about three times more likely to experience eyestrain, headaches, and trouble with vision than were those who saw the 2-D version. It could be that the parts of the brain responsible for perceiving 3-D visual input couldn’t do so properly, either because of a failure of the technology or limitations in those brain processes, says lead researcher L. Mark Carrier. “It’s also possible that any 3-D images that didn’t ‘work’ for the viewer created an uncomfortable sensation in the eyes.”

They don’t boost enjoyment.

Viewers who watched 3-D movies didn’t feel more immersed in the action or experience more intense emotions than 2-D viewers. They also didn’t remember the film’s content any better. Carrier’s research refutes the idea that 3-D television and movies could improve learning by making the content more engaging. “The only effect of 3-D presentation was an increase in discomfort,” he says.

They cost more.

On average, 3-D movie tickets cost about $3 more than the 2-D versions. “For some people, the 3-D visual effects might be pleasing and interesting and worth the extra money,” Carrier says. But for most of us, flicks are best enjoyed flat.