Ricky Schroder Makes People Cry For Science

[caption id="attachment_67950" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="MGM"]Ricky Schroder in The Champ[/caption]

We'd have chosen the closing scene of "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," but this probably works just as well... and without the potentially off-putting weird-looking alien.

Do you want to make someone cry? The movie clip of choice for psychologists is the closing scene of "The Champ," according to The Smithsonian.

The 1979 boxing drama directed by Franco Zeffirelli launched the career of the nine-year-old Ricky Schroder, who bawled his eyes out as his boxer father (Jon Voight) died in front of him. "Champ, wake up!" 

Audiences bawled their eyes out, too -- and continue to do so, all in the name of science.

"The Champ" has become a must-see in psychology laboratories around the world when scientists want to make people sad. The closing scene has been used in experiments to see if depressed people are more likely to cry than non-depressed people (they aren’t). It has helped determine whether people are more likely to spend money when they are sad (they are) and whether older people are more sensitive to grief than younger people (they are, at least when it comes to watching a scene from "The Champ").

Determining that "The Champ" was the go-to tearjerker of choice took years -- the beginning of the process dates back to 1988, when Robert Levenson, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and his grad student, James Gross, started asking for movie recommendations from various sources in an attempt to gather short film clips that could reliably elicit a strong emotional response in laboratory settings.

What was supposed to take months ended up taking years, 'cause there just aren't many across-the-board absolutes when it comes to human emotions.

Who would've thought that little brat from "Silver Spoons" and his crappy boxing movie (it is rather bad) would end up helping smarty-pants scientists write their dissertations?