The Actor’s Mind is a new podcast that explores acting from a psychological perspective. We describe and discuss popular acting tools that are commonly used in actor training, rehearsals, and performances. Then we identify the parallel psychological processes that are likely in play when actors use these techniques. We discuss the success of these techniques from our own experience, as well as why they work given the evidence from psychology and neuroscience. Our guests are experts from the theater and science worlds: actors, directors, teachers, and psychological scientists, who add their expertise and experience to the conversation.
Read the episode descriptions below to see what we’re talking about in Season 1.
Kateri McRae (Ph.D.) is an Associate Professor in the University of Denver Department of Psychology, where she conducts research, teaches and does other fun things (like this podcast!). Her research is focused on emotion cognition interactions, often studying things like how we’re able to control our emotions (or how we’re not able to) using multiple methods like questionnaires, laboratory tasks, bodily physiology and brain imaging. She teaches graduate courses in fMRI methods and affective neuroscience, and undergraduate courses in emotion regulation, and the intersection of psychology and theater. She was a double major in Human Biology and Drama as an undergraduate, and throughout her adult life has performed semi-professionally (mostly in musicals). In addition, she served as an adjudicator for the Bobby G Awards, as well as a theater critic in her role as “She” in a husband/wife critic team called He Said/She Said Critiques, as well as a brief stint as a freelance critic for The Denver Post.
Anne Penner is an Associate Professor in the University of Denver Theatre Department, where she teaches acting, directing, and movement courses. Most recently she performed Joan Didion’s one-woman play adaptation of her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, with Stories on Stage. Other professional acting credits include Richard III, Julius Caesar, and Cymbeline (Colorado Shakespeare Festival); Abundance, Crimes of the Heart, American Notes, and Savage in Limbo (Sis Tryst Productions); Not I & Rockaby (Edinburgh International Fringe Festival); Seascape (Modern Muse); The Crimson Thread (Arvada Center); Backsliding in the Promised Land (Syracuse Stages); and various performances with Stories on Stage. She also directs and produces, most often for DU; her theater company, Sis Tryst Productions; and for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Episode #1: Objective + Appraisal Theory of Emotion
Kateri and Anne discuss one of the most important acting tools, objective, and a parallel psychological concept, appraisal theory of emotion.
Guests: Larry Hecht, Ashlee Temple, and Allison Watrous
Episode #2: Substitution + Episodic Memory
Kateri and Anne discuss substitution and episodic memory.
Guest: Gareth Saxe
Episode #3: Actor/Character Physicality + Embodied Cognition
Kateri and Anne discuss actor/character physicality and embodied cognition.
Guest: Regan Linton (www.reganlinton.com)
Episode #4: Presence + Mindfulness
Kateri and Anne share their discussion of actor presence/stage presence and the psychological concept of mindfulness with guest Thalia Goldstein.
Guests: Thalia Goldstein, Jessica Austgen, and Lauren Bahlman
Episode #5: Language + Psycholinguistics
Kateri and Anne discuss the power of language for an actor and the corresponding study of psycholinguistics.
Guest: Sabin Epstein
Caldarone, Marina & Maggie Lloyd Williams. (2004). Actions: The Actors’ Thesaurus. Hollywood, CA: Drama Publishers.
Hagen, Uta. (1973). Respect for Acting. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Bruder, Melissa, et al. (1986). A Practical Handbook for the Actor. New York, NY: Random House.
Ball, William. (1984). A Sense of Direction. Hollywood, CA: Drama Publishers. “Objectives” chapter.
Hodge, Alison, editor. (2010). Actor Training, second edition. New York, NY: Routledge. Chapter 1: Stanislavsky’s System.
Bogart, Anne and Tina Landau. (2005). The Viewpoints Book. New York: NY. Theatre Communications Group.
Bogart, Anne. (2001). A Director Prepares: Seven Essays on Art and Theatre. New York, NY: Routledge.
Chekhov, Michael. (1953). To the Actor. New York, NY: Harper and Brothers.
Harrop, John and Sabin Epstein. (2000). Acting with Style, third edition. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Jeffries, Stuart. “Inside the mind of an actor (literally).” Theguardian.com. November 29, 2009.
Vedantam, Shankar (Producer). (January 29, 2018). Hidden Brain episode: “Lost in Translation” [Audio podcast].
Linklater, Kristin. (2006). Freeing the Natural Voice. Hollywood, CA: Drama Publishers.
Barton, John. (1984). Playing Shakespeare: An Actor’s Guide. New York, NY: Random House.
Kateri’s Episode 1 resources:
Arnold, Magda B. “Emotion and personality.” (1960). NY: Columbia University Press.
Ellsworth, Phoebe C., and Klaus R. Scherer. “Appraisal processes in emotion.” Handbook of Affective Sciences 572 (2003): V595.
Lazarus, R. S. (1966). Psychological stress and the coping process. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Vedantam, Shankar (Producer). (January 29, 2018). Hidden Brain episode: “Lost in Translation” [Audio podcast].
Kateri’s Episode 2 resources:
Tulving, Endel, and David Murray. “Elements of episodic memory.” Canadian Psychology 26.3 (1985): 235-238.
Phelps, Elizabeth A. “Human emotion and memory: interactions of the amygdala and hippocampal complex.” Current opinion in neurobiology 14.2 (2004): 198-202.
Hamann, Stephan B., et al. “Amygdala activity related to enhanced memory for pleasant and aversive stimuli.” Nature neuroscience 2.3 (1999): 289.
Alberini, Cristina M., and Joseph E. LeDoux. “Memory reconsolidation.” Current Biology 23.17 (2013): R746-R750.
Kateri’s Episode 3 resources:
Ambady, N., & Rosenthal, R. (1993). Half a minute: Predicting teacher evaluations from thin slices of nonverbal behavior and physical attractiveness. Journal of personality and social psychology, 64(3), 431.
Rule, N. O., Ambady, N., Adams Jr, R. B., & Macrae, C. N. (2008). Accuracy and awareness in the perception and categorization of male sexual orientation. Journal of personality and social psychology, 95(5), 1019.
Curhan, J. R., & Pentland, A. (2007). Thin slices of negotiation: Predicting outcomes from conversational dynamics within the first 5 minutes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(3), 802.
Schwartz, B. (2004, January). The paradox of choice: Why more is less. New York: Ecco.
Västfjäll, D. (2001). Emotion induction through music: A review of the musical mood induction procedure. Musicae Scientiae, 5(1_suppl), 173-211.
Henver, K. 1937. The affective value of pitch and tempo in music. American Journal of Social Psychology, 49(4): 621–30.
Sievers, B., Polansky, L., Casey, M., & Wheatley, T. (2013). Music and movement share a dynamic structure that supports universal expressions of emotion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(1), 70-75.
Strack, F., Martin, L. L., & Stepper, S. (1988). Inhibiting and facilitating conditions of the human smile: a nonobtrusive test of the facial feedback hypothesis. Journal of personality and social psychology, 54(5), 768.
Söderkvist, S., Ohlén, K., & Dimberg, U. (2018). How the experience of emotion is modulated by facial feedback. Journal of nonverbal behavior, 42(1), 129-151.
Noah, T., Schul, Y., & Mayo, R. (2018). When both the original study and its failed replication are correct: Feeling observed eliminates the facial-feedback effect. Journal of personality and social psychology, 114(5), 657.
Wilson, M. (2002). Six views of embodied cognition. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 9(4), 625-636.
Lotze, M., Montoya, P., Erb, M., Hülsmann, E., Flor, H., Klose, U., … & Grodd, W. (1999). Activation of cortical and cerebellar motor areas during executed and imagined hand movements: an fMRI study. Journal of cognitive neuroscience, 11(5), 491-501.
Cross, E. S., Hamilton, A. F. D. C., & Grafton, S. T. (2006). Building a motor simulation de novo: observation of dance by dancers. Neuroimage, 31(3), 1257-1267.
Tchernichovski, O., & Wallman, J. (2008). Behavioural neuroscience: Neurons of imitation. Nature, 451(7176), 249.
Wiens, S. (2005). Interoception in emotional experience. Current opinion in neurology, 18(4), 442-447.
Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J., & Yap, A. J. (2010). Power posing: Brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. Psychological science, 21(10), 1363-1368.
Ranehill, E., Dreber, A., Johannesson, M., Leiberg, S., Sul, S., & Weber, R. A. (2015). Assessing the robustness of power posing: No effect on hormones and risk tolerance in a large sample of men and women. Psychological science, 26(5), 653-656.
Kateri’s Episode 4 resources:
Konijn, E. A. (1991). Empirical analysis of emotion processes in the theatre. Psychology and performing arts, 59.
Tugade, M. M., Fredrickson, B. L., & Feldman Barrett, L. (2004). Psychological resilience and positive emotional granularity: Examining the benefits of positive emotions on coping and health. Journal of personality, 72(6), 1161-1190.
Jakobs, E., Manstead, A. S., & Fischer, A. H. (2001). Social context effects on facial activity in a negative emotional setting. Emotion, 1(1), 51.
Csikszentmihalyi, M., Abuhamdeh, S., & Nakamura, J. (2014). Flow. In Flow and the foundations of positive psychology (pp. 227-238). Springer, Dordrecht.
Ellen, W., Goldstein, T.R., & Stéphan, V. L. (2013). Educational research and innovation art for art’s sake? The impact of arts education: The Impact of Arts Education. OECD publishing.
Kateri’s Episode 5 resources:
Majid, A. (2012). Current emotion research in the language sciences. Emotion Review, 4(4), 432-443.
Hauser, M. D. (1993). The evolution of nonhuman primate vocalizations: effects of phylogeny, body weight, and social context. The American Naturalist, 142(3), 528-542.
Wood, A., Martin, J., & Niedenthal, P. (2017). Towards a social functional account of laughter: Acoustic features convey reward, affiliation, and dominance. PloS one, 12(8), e0183811.
Kastl, A. J., & Child, I. L. (1968). Emotional meaning of four typographical variables. Journal of Applied Psychology, 52(6p1), 440.
Bar, M., & Neta, M. (2007). Visual elements of subjective preference modulate amygdala activation. Neuropsychologia, 45(10), 2191-2200.
Scherer, K. R. (1986). Vocal affect expression: A review and a model for future research. Psychological bulletin, 99(2), 143.
Whorf, B. L. (2012). Language, thought, and reality: Selected writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. Mit Press.
Loftus, E. F., & Palmer, J. C. (1974). Reconstruction of automobile destruction: An example of the interaction between language and memory. Journal of verbal learning and verbal behavior, 13(5), 585-589.
Smith, A. D. (2001). Talk to me: Listening between the lines. Random House.
Kagitani, T., Goto, M., Watanbe, J., & Sakamoto, M. (2014, January). Sound symbolic relationship between onomatopoeia and emotional evaluations in taste. In Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (Vol. 36, No. 36).
Collaborators and Thanks
A big thanks to all of our guests: Larry Hecht, Ashlee Temple, Allison Watrous, Gareth Saxe, Regan Linton, Jessica Austgen, Lauren Bahlman, Thalia Goldstein, and Sabin Epstein. Thanks to everyone willing to be recorded for our Introduction and the beginning of Episode #4, Presence: Moss Kaplan, Wren Schuyler, Mare Trevathan, Adeline Mann, Molly Carter, Gareth Saxe, Isaiah Adams, Deb Hultgren, Matthew Jones, Spencer Duncan, and Kenzie Kilroy.
Jennifer Forsyth, Production Administrator
Jonathan Howard, Music Composition and Audio Engineering
The University of Denver Department of Theatre
The University of Denver Creative Arts Materials Fund (CAMF) Grant