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BW psychology students to present research at regional conference

Psychology students posing for photo

In April, three Baldwin Wallace psychology students will present research at the Midwest Psychological Association conference in Chicago.

Their research, which began last fall, looks at self-expansion in acting to better understand whether theatre students take on aspects of the fictional characters they portray and the impact it has on them.

The students are under the supervision of associate professor of psychology Dr. Stephanie Rothman and assistant professor of theatre Anjanette Hall.

A well-published researcher, Rothman is a social psychologist whose work often focuses on topics like self-concept, social rejection and relationships. The theatre collaboration is of particular interest to her because of its interdisciplinary scope.

From BW to a Regional Conference Presentation

Eight students served as research investigators. Among them is Claire Waller '23, a double major in psychology and criminal justice from Maumee, Ohio.

"We attended rehearsals and final shows of multiple productions BW put on last semester. We interviewed the actors and had them complete an online survey. In addition, we interviewed them about their acting strategies and how the roles impacted their personalities," she noted.

Working alongside her with data collection is Jack Swanson '22, a senior psychology major from Twinsburg, Ohio, who believes his experience with the project offers outstanding career preparation for his goal of becoming an adolescent counselor.

"I had to become very comfortable with asking probing questions, digging deeper when necessary and building a rapport with the students I interviewed. Since counseling is mainly conversational, the ability to formulate questions and guide the dialogue in certain ways has really readied me for my career post-graduate school," stated Swanson.

Swanson and Waller will present the research, along with Emily Hathcock '22 of Middleburg Heights, Ohio. The three individuals are working on data analysis with Rothman, who said they are "reviewing interview transcripts to identify themes that can help them better understand the experiences of the student actors as they relate to self-expansion, mental health and other areas."

Rothman went on to say they also will perform linguistic analysis on the transcripts to identify patterns in students' word choice and any associated implications. As an example, she said they are looking at whether the student actors often used "I" and first-person pronouns when referring to the role they are playing.

BW students attend regional conference

Building a Pathway for Future Studies in Arts, Social Sciences

"As we analyze the data, we can get a better understanding of the role self-expansion has in acting. Most trained actors will likely have some degree of it in their work because they use some form of technique that connects 'self' to character through personalization," believes Hall, who has 20 years of professional acting experience.

"For myself, I find there are variables that inform the level to which I self-expand into the characters I play. Often, it presents itself in my physicality. Sometimes I will continue to walk or carry myself the way I do when I am in rehearsal or in performance. It can also be my voice, whereas I will speak in the same dialect or speech pattern even when I'm not in character," she added.

"Working on this study with Stephanie has been an exciting interdisciplinary opportunity. Stephanie's impressive background in social psychology and years of research experience were instrumental to the success of this research," noted Hall.

"Uniting the arts with the social sciences and research bridges new realms of study that are intriguing and needed as we move forward with better understanding the interplay of imaginary and reality as it pertains to acting. But there are many other areas that can be studied. This is only the beginning," she emphasized.

Rothman agrees. "I have been absolutely delighted to work with Anjanette and students from both psychology and theatre," she said. "Studying this question from an interdisciplinary perspective has broadened the horizons of everyone involved and allowed us to tackle our research questions from multiple viewpoints, giving us valuable and unique insights we may not have reached alone."

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