Better learning through acting?

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This press release from the Association for Psychological Science has some interesting food for thought for adult educators—and gives a whole new meaning to role playing. Researchers studied what enabled actors to memorize their lines, and came up with some interesting ideas. From the release:


    Most people imagine that learning a script involves hours, days, and even months of rote memorization. But actors seldom work that way; in fact, they often don't consciously try to memorize lines at all. And they seldom consider memorization as defining what they do.


    What gives actors their seemingly effortless memory capabilities? Could acting teach us something about memory and cognition, and could acting principles help those with memory problems?


    These are the questions that cognitive psychologist Helga Noice (Elmhurst College) and her husband, cognitive researcher, actor, and director Tony Noice (Indiana State University) have set out to answer in nearly two decades of psychological studies of actors. The Noices have not only described a learning principle that can be taught to non-actors but they have also tested acting-based interventions to counter cognitive decline in older people. They review their research in the February issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science...


    The key, the researchers have found, is a process called active experiencing, which they say uses "all physical, mental, and emotional channels to communicate the meaning of material to another person." It is a principle that can be applied off-stage as well as on. For example, students who studied material by imagining conveying its meaning to somebody else who needed the information showed higher retention than those who tried to memorize the material by rote...


    Memory is heavily reliant on emotion, action, and perception. In their work with actors, the Noices' have found, for example, that memory is aided by physical movement. In one study, lines learned while making an appropriate motion — e.g., walking across a stage — were more readily remembered by actors later than were lines unaccompanied by action. The physical motion didn't need to be repeated at the time of recall.



Meeting planners and learning facilitators, take note.

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