Post navigation

The Love Competition

Posted on March 3, 2012 by kierandonaghy

This EFL lesson is designed around a short film called The Love Competition directed by Brent Hoff and the theme of love. In order to find out if it’s possible for one person to love more than another the film-maker teamed up with neuroscientists at Stanford University to test seven contestants’ ability to love using an fMRI to monitor brain activity while the contestants focused on loving thoughts. The lesson practises speaking, reading and listening.



I would ask all teachers who use Film English to consider buying my book Film in Action as the royalties which I receive from sales help to keep the website completely free.



Language level: Intermediate(B1) – Upper-intermediate (B2.1)

Learner type: teens and adults

Time: 90 minutes

Activity: Speaking, reading and listening

Topic: Love and the brain

Language: Comparatives using more and less, adjectives to describe emotions, vocabulary related to the brain

Materials: Short film, discussion questions; graphic

Downloadable materials: the love competition instructions   love questions    love brain graphic


Support Film English

Film English remains ad-free and takes many hours a month to research and write, and hundreds of dollars to sustain. If you find any joy or value in it, please consider supporting Film English with a monthly subscription, or by contributing a one-off payment.

Monthly subscription

One-off payment

Step 1

Get students to discuss the questions about love.


Step 2

Tell your students they are going to watch a short film called The Love Competition. Put them into pairs and ask them to speculate about what they the film will be about and what story it will tell. Get feedback after 5 minutes.


Step 3

Show the film until 1:27. Ask students what the love competition is and what the rules are.


The rules are:

Contestants have 5 minutes in an fMRI machine to love someone as hard as they can. Brain regions involved in producing the neurochemical experience of love are measured. The contestant who generates the greatest level of activity in those areas wins.


Step 4

Write the following adjectives on the board:

stressed     alert    motivated    sad

attractive   afraid   obsessive aggressive

anxious      trusting

Put your students into pairs and ask them to discuss whether they think more or less of each emotion when they are in love. Give them an example sentence such as:

I think you feel more alert and attractive, but less sad and anxious.

Give them five minutes to discuss their opinions.

After five minutes give them the brain graphic document which shows the different emotions we feel when we love. Get them to compare their answers with the information in the graphic. Ask them if there is anything surprising in the graphic.


Tell them that the neuroscientists in the experiment in the film examine the same areas of the brain as shown in the graphic to determine who loves the most.


Step 5

Now show the second part of the film, pause at 08:04. Ask the students to write down the following information about the seven contestants.



Who or what type of love they are going to concentrate on:


Step 6

Ask your students the following question:

How does each contestant feel after the experiment?

Now show the third part of the film, pause at 13:37.


Step 7

Show the And the winner is… caption and ask your students who they think is going to win.

Now show the last part of the film.

Show the rest of the film and ask them for their reactions. Ask them if they would consider taking part in this type of experiment.

I hope you enjoy this English language lesson.

Support Film English

Film English remains ad-free and takes many hours a month to research and write, and hundreds of dollars to sustain. If you find any joy or value in it, please consider supporting Film English with a monthly subscription, or by contributing a one-off payment.

Monthly subscription

One-off payment


18 thoughts on “The Love Competition

  1. I really do like the lesson, it reflects a lot of creativity on the part of the lesson designer. The lesson tackles different skills: reading, speaking, and listening. And the idea of exposing the students to a movie, I find it authentic and funny at the same time.
    All in all, I find the lesson interesting !

  2. Hi,
    I’m a lucky one who finds out your blog.
    Could you pls upload the transcript for every video clips?
    I’d really appreciate it.

    Waiting for your posts.

    • Hi Nimcole,
      I’m glad you like the site. I’m not planning to upload the transcripts as I don’t really think it’s necessary and a lot of the films have minimal or no dialogue.
      All the best,

  3. Fabulous materials Kieran. I am especially interested in everything to do with emotional intelligence and the management of our emotions. I don’t know if there are any other posts related to this on the blog, please let me know if there is. Nevertheless there are still LOADS of other ideas that I can use in training sessions. Thank you so much for your vision and creativity, it has been GREAT discovering your site.

  4. It’s so beautiful!!!!! I’m not going to use it in my class this year, because I have A1 and A2 students. But I just enjoyed it, and your class plan is great as all the ones I’ve seen. I recommended this blog in Facebook, because some friends of mine are also English teachers. And I posted the “The Adventures of a Cardboard Box” film in my personal blog ( because it reminded me of one of my daughters and it inspired me an entry. It inspired some nice comments.
    Thank you very much!

    • Hi Mar,
      Thanks a lot for commenting. Yes, it’s a beautiful film, but a bit difficult for lower levels. Adventures of a cardboard Box is great too, I did it in 2 presentations I in Bilbao last weekend, and it was very popular.
      All the best,

  5. Hi Kieran,

    I used this lesson with a class last week – they came up with a definition of “love” that I thought I’d share with you: “an irrational period of difficult happiness”….
    Thanks for the lesson,

    • Hi David,
      What a fantastic definition! It’s very beautiful and subtle. By the way, congratulations on your blog which goes from strenght to strength.
      All the best,

  6. Dear Film English,

    I do not know what it went wrong but I am unable to play the film, it lets me to play only the trailer. What can I do?


      • Thank you, I find it quite strange. I adapted it to active board had a lesson on it and next day I tried to conrtinue and the film disappeared. I was sad as I loved this material.
        Thanks a lot.
        best wishes,

  7. I have enjoyed using and adapting many of your lessons. My students have responded well. Thank you for sharing them.

    This one, however, is being “rented” on Vimeo, at the moment, so we can only see 2 minutes of it.

    Keep up the good work!