Improvisation for the Mind: Theatrical Improvisation, Consciousness, and Cognition.
Abstract: Improvisation teachers Viola Spolin, Del Close, and Keith Johnstone
knew that with structure and guidelines, the human mind can be trained to be effortlessly
spontaneous and intuitive. Cognitive studies is just now catching up with what improvisers
have known for over fifty years. Through archival research, workshops, and interviews, I
ask what these improvisation teachers already ... read moreknew about improvisation's effects on
consciousness and cognition. I then hold their theories up against current findings in
cognitive neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy. The hypothesis that comes out of my
methodology is that improvisation orders consciousness. By demanding an outward focus on
other improvisers and the game being played, improvisation diminishes one's internal focus.
This reduces self-consciousness, fear, and anxiety. I also look at more extreme examples of
this change in focus where improvisers reach states of flow and experience changes in
perception, time, and memory. Examining cognitive studies' relevance to improvisation has
implication for scripted productions, therapy, and our everyday lives. The guidelines of
improvisation and how those guidelines alter consciousness and cognition can serve as a
model in ordering consciousness, interacting with people, and living
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2012.
Submitted to the Dept. of Drama.
Advisor: Downing Cless.
Committee: Barbara Grossman, Natalya Baldyga, and John Lutterbie.
Keywords: Theater, Neurosciences, and Cognitive psychology.read less