The Hunger Games Social Psychology Analysis

Mridul Kapoor           

25th April 2018

Social Psychology Paper

The Hunger Games Social Psychology Analysis

            Directed by Garry Ross, the Hunger Games is a film that portrays a fictional, futuristic and dystopian nation in the United States of America. Based off of the first book out of Suzanne Collins trilogy; it depicts a society that is built on the bases of social classes. The fictional nation of Panem, located in North America, is divided into 13 districts. The Capitol where all the money and power are concentrated, is at the top of the social system, followed by the remaining 12 districts. The 12th district is viewed as the lowest in the social class system, with the worst living condition. The film sets stage when two residents from the 12th district are chosen as tributes to participate in the 74th Hunger Games which was organized for the Capitols entertainment. The Hunger Game pageant, for which one boy and one girl are chosen from each district to fight to the death for survival in a dangerous public arena. The winner or survivor of the game, along with its entire district, is then rewarded with living supplies such as food and clothes. The plot revolves around two residents from the 12th district, Peeta, and 16-year-old Katniss, who live in extreme poverty fighting daily for survival. Apart from being an entertaining, exciting and adventure-filled movie, The Hunger Games film also has some hidden psychology in it.



            Altruistic behavior by definition is when someone is motivated by a desire to benefit someone other than oneself for that person’s sake (Kraut, 2016). The first scene from the movie depicts The Reaping, an event where people from Capitol come to the 12th district in order to announce the two tributes. The entire district stands scared in front of a podium, in pin drop silence, to find out who will be their chosen tribute. The decision is made through a lucky draw system which decides the fate of the people living in these districts. When Katniss watches her little sister is being chosen as the girl tribute from their district, she immediately starts to scream and run towards her sister when the guards stop her. The only way for her to save her sister is to volunteer herself, and that’s what she does. This is where she exhibits altruistic behavior. Further, the relation between empathy and altruism is supported by the Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis which states that when we feel empathy for another person, we will attempt to help that person for purely altruistic reasons, regardless of what we have to gain. (Aronson et al., 2016, p. 349) Katniss’s choice to volunteer for the deadly hunger games solely because of the empathy and love she feels for her little sister; in order to protect her life, she became selfless and is willing to face death just to give her sister a life. Another social psychological principle depicted in the scene is “The Bystander Effect”. When Peeta is called upon as the tribute, not a single person in the public is willing to step in which portrays a mentality of “since no one is helping, why should I”. As Fischer Et Al. states, “The greater the number of bystanders who witness an emergency, the less likely any one of them is to help the victim—a phenomenon called the bystander effect”

Fight or Flight Response

Fight or flight response is a choice that a person has to make under pressure in a stressful situation. The scene opens when the countdown to commence the games begin and all the tributes are standing in a circle facing each other. Once the countdown is over, everyone starts running around with only one goal in mind – to survive. In such a situation they have only two choices, either jump right into battle or hide and wait to battle till someone approaches them; another way of saying this is either fight or flight. Walter Cannon (1932) termed this the fight-or-flight response, defined as responding to stress by either attacking the source of the stress or fleeing from it (Aronson et al., 2016, p. 487). At first, Katniss tries to save her like by running for the woods choosing to flight, but right after when she realizes she needs weapon she decides to jump back in the battle to secure some choosing fight.

Group Processes

In theory, a group is two or more people who interact and are interdependent in the sense that their needs and goals cause them to influence each other (Aronson et al., 2016, p. 270). This principle has been strongly showcased multiple times. First, the entire plot of the story is based on the nation of Panem being divided into 13 districts or groups. Second, when tributes start to form alliances with each other. This alliance in social psychology is called a group. One of the most popular groups in the movie is The Career Pack. Since it was a game of survival, everyone in the group was interdependent and shared a common goal – to stay alive. Later in the movie when it is revealed that two people were allowed to survive, Katniss and Peeta also form an alliance. Being from the same district, they share two common goals, one was to stay alive by helping each other survive and the second was the common motivation to win for the district.


Misattribution of Arousal

The relationship between Katniss and Peeta has a rocky start but keeps evolving throughout the movie. Misattribution of Arousal is a process where people make mistaken inferences about what is causing them to feel the way they do (Aronson et al., 2016, p. 137). A person is aroused when he or she feels and recognizes an emotion, usually one believes that there is only one cause of arousal but in some instances, there are more than one. Misattribution takes place when one fails to identify the correct cause making them feel aroused. The hunger games arena is uncertain, risky, fearful and adventurous. In the cave scene where Katniss and Peeta, who we know had a rocky start, suddenly start feeling intense feelings for each other which progresses into them kissing. Although in a movie, this could have been done because of dramatic reasons, it is not unusual in such an environment for misattribution to happen. In the cave, Katniss and Peeta both are injured from fighting for their lives with an uncertainty of actually surviving it. When in such a situation, one feels all kinds of different emotion including fear, anger, regret, guilt, and love. This gives rise to the question – Where they actually in love and attracted to each other or it was a simple case of Misattribution of Arousal.