September 11, 2008

Psychology of Acting

Mike Green        posted 29 Aug 2008, 11:52 AM

Hi all, I’m doing a study on the psychology of acting, there is a chance to win $100 just by filling in a short 10 minute online survey at this address:

Read on for more details:

Attention all you Amazing Actors and Actresses, EmotingThespians… There has been little research on the psychology of actors. This is despite the fact that acting is among the most watched and perhaps the most scrutinized professions, hobbies or work in the world.

I would like to invite all actors to take part in my research into different styles of acting and how this can affect psychological well-being.

My name is Mike Green and this research is part of my Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University. My supervisor is Dr. Dianne Gardner, who specializes in psychological well-being at work.

Participant Requirements

If you would like to take part, this involves completing a short questionnaire which should take about 10 minutes. It focuses on different styles of acting and whether these are related to job and life satisfaction and emotional well-being, and whether having a sense of community changes these relationships.

Who Can Participate?

Any full-time, part-time, professional, community or amateur thespian can participate provided that they are over 18 and have been involved in at least one production this year.

What Can You Get From This?

A Summary of Findings as well as an entry into a draw to win $100 dollars.

If you are interested, or know someone else who is, Please contact me on 027 4164 511 or

Otherwise, just go to this website: and fill in the survey! Cheers!

Entertainers and Tragedian

Nic Farra              posted 11 Sep 2008, 06:13 PM

Dear Mike

Firstly congratulations on the topic for your Master’s. It’s a fascinating notion that should throw up some interesting results.

I have done your survey and I must admit I found myself perplexed by some of it, and I’m curious to know your definitions. I have no idea what is meant by ‘deep acting’ or ‘superficial acting’. What I sense is a raft of value judgements about the relative values of the Stanislavsky approach in which the experience of the character is considered and the ’emotional truth’ of a performance is measured by how deeply an actor is involved in replicating those feelings internally. I suppose the antithesis of this is ‘superficial acting’

To be quite blunt I don’t believe in either. I think there is good acting and poor acting, as I believe it is quite impossible to detect what is going on inside another person’s mind, but it is easily discernible whether a person is completely absorbed in the moment.

In her 1973 book ‘Repect For Acting’, Uta Hagen, a Stanislavsky advocate, makes it clear she prefers ‘presentational’ acting, in which the actor ‘trusts a form will result from identification with the character’ to ‘representational’ acting, in which an actor ‘imitates a character’s behaviour’. However she goes on to recommend ‘substitution’ as a way to experience feelings approxemating the character’s, even going so far as to say it doesn’t matter if they are not that close or even if you forget them!

I believe the only difference between ‘representational’ and ‘presentational’ is in the mind. As with any job at all, I aim to enjoy myself. To enjoy it the most I aim to do the best job possible, which ultimately involves entertaining the punters. In my experience they’ll let you know whether you are convincing or not, and they are the best ones to listen to because not only do they pay the wages, a performance simply doesn’t happen unless someone is watching.

I am suspicious of making value judgements over one way of acting over another. If it gets the job done and it works, that’s OK. If it’s making extra work to attain ‘respectability’… for one I don’t wanna be respectable, and for two I wanna have fun. If I manage to entertain people in the process of getting paid for what I love doing, then it’s win-win.

Share on social


Make a comment