Monday 6 February 2017

What Traits Allow Actors to Embody Their Character?

As you close your eyes, you begin to visualize, carry the weight, and conjure the emotion. For those who are fascinated by the ability to create seemingly real experiences from imagined ones, this particular study may catch your eye. In an attempt to gain a better understanding of how actors are able to become their character so convincingly, a group of researchers examined whether acting ability is related to traits linked to hypnotizability (Panero, Goldstein, Rosenberg, Hughes, & Winner, 2016). This connection was drawn from the fact that in both acting exercises and hypnotic induction, individuals draw on personally-experienced events. Actors draw on their emotions and experiences and then fit those events to the character they wish to play. In a hypnotic state, individuals also draw on real-life experienced that parallel the instructions delivered. For example, if the hypnotic suggestion was for an individual’s arm to feel heavy, this individual would likely draw on a time when they truly experienced their arm feeling weighed down (Panero et al., 2016). 
To examine this putative link between acting abilities and hypnotizability, this study looked at different tendencies associated with hypnotizability: imaginative suggestibility, absorption, and fantasy proneness. Imaginative suggestibility is the ability to recreate an imagine situation so that it feels real. Absorption is a state of focus completely dedicated to experiencing an object (Tellegen & Atkinson, 1974). And, lastly, a fantasy prone individual is someone who spends a great deal of time fantasizing and daydreaming (Merckelbach, 2004). The researchers found that actors did indeed score higher than musicians and nonartists on all three tendencies. So it seems that actors do indeed rate themselves higher in traits that have been linked to hypnotizability. This study provides important insight into the abilities actors may possess that allow them to become their character. 

Posted by Michelle Vinitsky

Merckelbach, H. (2004). Telling a good story: Fantasy proneness and the quality of fabricated memories.
Personality and Individual Differences, 37, 1371–1382. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2004.01.007

Panero, M. E., Goldstein, T. R., Rosenberg, R., Hughes, H., & Winner, E. (2016). Do actors possess traits
associated with high hypnotizability? Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 10(2), 233-239. doi: 10.1037/t10470-000

Tellegen, A., & Atkinson, G. (1974). Openness to absorbing and self-altering experiences (“absorption”),
a trait related to hypnotic susceptibility. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 83, 268–277. doi: 10.1037/h0036681

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