The Psychological Components of Acting Characters

ABSTRACT by Thalia R. Goldstein

Actors face a difficult task. They must realistically and convincingly embody the emotions, mental states, and behaviors of their character, often in scenes and situations that they have never and likely would never experience. This talk explores the psychological skills, abilities, and strategies that actors must bring to the forefront in order to rehearse and perform, pulling from research in developmental psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and social psychology. I will focus in on embodied cognition skills, empathy, language processing, understanding of identity, creative flexibility, and decision making to outline the psychology of acting, and discuss research from my laboratory group and others’ that has investigated what we know and what is still to discover about the psychological and neurological correlates and processes of acting rehearsal and performance.

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