Skip to main content

Live theatre as exception and test case for experiencing negative emotions in art

  • Thalia R. Goldstein (a1)

Distancing and then embracing constitutes a useful way of thinking about the paradox of aesthetic pleasure. However, the model does not account for live theatre. When live actors perform behaviors perceptually close to real life and possibly really experienced by the actors, audiences may experience autonomic reactions, with less distance, or may have to distance post-experiencing/embracing their emotions.

Hide All
Apperly, I. A. & Butterfill, S. A. (2009) Do humans have two systems to track beliefs and belief-like states? Psychological Review 116(4):953.
Benedetti, J. (2007) The art of the actor: The essential history of acting, from classical times to the present day. Theatre Arts Book.
Brunner, J. (2017) Why immersive theatre isn't just a fad. Playbill, April 22. Available at:
Chartrand, T. L. & Bargh, J. A. (1999) The chameleon effect: The perception-behavior link and social interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 76(6):893910.
Coplan, A. (2006) Catching characters emotions: Emotional contagion responses to narrative fiction film. Film Studies 8(8):2638.
Dinesh, N. (2017) Memos from a Theatre Lab: Exploring what immersive theatre 'does'. Routledge.
Gerbner, G. & Gross, L. (1976) The scary world of TV's heavy viewer. Psychology Today 9(11):4145.
Goldstein, T. R. & Bloom, P. (2015) Characterizing characters: How children make sense of realistic acting. Cognitive Development 34:3950. Available at:
Goldstein, T. R. & Filipe, A. (2017) The interpreted mind: Understanding acting. Review of General Psychology. Available at:
Hatfield, E., Bensman, L., Thornton, P. D. & Rapson, R. L. (2014) New perspectives on emotional contagion: A review of classic and recent research on facial mimicry and contagion. Interpersona 8(2):159.
Hatfield, E., Cacioppo, J. & Rapson, R. (1994) Emotional contagion. Cambridge University Press.
Kelly, J. R., Iannone, N. E. & McCarty, M. K. (2016) Emotional contagion of anger is automatic: An evolutionary explanation. The British Journal of Social Psychology 55(1):182–91. Available at:
Krach, S., Cohrs, J. C., de Echeverría Loebell, N. C., Kircher, T., Sommer, J., Jansen, A. & Paulus, F. M. (2011) Your flaws are my pain: Linking empathy to vicarious embarrassment. PLoS ONE 6(4):e18675.
Neumann, R. & Strack, F. (2000) “Mood contagion”: The automatic transfer of mood between persons. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 79(2):211–23. Available at:
Preston, S. D. & De Waal, F. B. (2002) Empathy: Its ultimate and proximate bases. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25(1):120.
Stanislavsky, K. (1989) An actor prepares. Theatre Arts Book/Routledge.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed