How does method acting actually affect the mind of an actor and the audience?

My Inquiry Question: How does method acting (Stanislavsky Technique, emotional memory) actually affect the mind of an actor and the audience?

Why did I choose this question?

Having watched and experienced method acting, I can recall a certain 'blackout' feeling after stepping out of character, a sense of having lost control and regained it through the eyes of someone other than yourself. I want to explore what is actually happening when an actor becomes a character, and how method acting and emotional memory actually works to convince not only the audience, but the actor himself.

I'm already familiar with method acting exercises, where an actor will put themselves in a trance to recall a memory using all of their senses to find the “trigger” for the emotion. I have seen and used this technique to bring forward a realistic reaction. I’ve also seen it used to move an audience member to empathize, whether they’re crying along to the sad scene or sighing with relief because the character narrowly avoided misfortune.

I looked into some papers to find out how emotional memory works, exactly. The brain regions that control our emotional memories are called the frontotemporal regions. They are triggered by sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and touch, retrieved from long-term memory storage. The amygdala is a small control center for your emotions, your feelings, and when the frontotemporal regions trigger an emotional memory, the amygdala works in exactly the same way as it does in the moment of an emotion being triggered. So, when activated, emotional memory can bring about emotions that feel, and, really, are real. I have not yet looked into the impact of time on emotional memory, but my research so far seems to suggest that most emotional memories, when triggered, will be just as strong as far as 7 years in the past.

sources used:

Cognitive neuroscience of emotional memory, Kevin S. LaBar and Roberto Cabeza

Stanislavski's affective memory as a therapeutic tool, Lippe, Wendy A.

Emotional Contagion, Elaine Hatfield, John T. Cacioppo, Richard L. Rapson


Original Post

Welcome to Butterfly Effect Angeles, 

Intriguing inquiry question! I'm not very familiar with acting methods; however, I'm keen to learn from your posts. It's quite amazing that actors can put people under a trance, but are their negative effects that take place after wards? Is this pure talent or an art that is mastered from many years of practice? Perhaps explaining this method in more depths and providing a video could be a helpful for readers like myself who are knowledgeable in this topic just quite yet. Here are some links for the future and I'm looking forward to your next post.

Hi Angeles,

Great first post! I'd never heard of method acting before now. Having only ever performed in school plays when I was in elementary school, I don't know a whole lot about acting, but I learned something new from this. Maybe for your first round of research you could further introduce the topic by explaining what method acting is exactly, how it's done, and perhaps some examples of actors and actresses that use or have used this in the past and how effective method acting is and why it can be so effective.

Here are some websites you might find useful for your research:

Good luck!

Hi Angeles,

This is a great topic and I loved you post! You clearly stated your ideas and it made it easier to understand! I think that this is a really interesting topic, and it is evident in your post that you can draw form your personal experiences as well as doing further research which will help you get a deeper and more well rounded understanding of the topic! Although I have never experienced any of these feelings while acting, I feel that in some way I experienced the 'blackout' feeling as a dancer and musician. It may be interesting to investigate this through a survey and discover some students (with a variety of arts backgrounds) experiences.

Looking forward to your next post! 


Hi Angeles, I really like your first post! Your idea is so unique and I've never seen anything like it so it will be really interesting to read what you come up with. I've heard before that actors sometimes use these eyedrops to help trigger the tears, so I think it would be super interesting if you looked into that versus them actually crying on their own.  Here is a website to help you out:

Hope this helps!

Hi Angeles! 

I think that this topic is such an interesting one, especially attending a fine arts school, and for people wanting to pursue acting in the future. Method acting is one of the most commonly used ways of getting in touch with your character. I know I have used this quite a number of times.

Reading your answers, the thing that stuck out to me the most that there is science behind it, and the fact occurred to me that when we utilize method acting, that we are generally manipulating our amygdala. I think as you continue exploring this topic, that looking into how this effects actors emotions (depression, anger, happiness, anxiety, etc.) would be an interesting path to go down. Doing so would bring awareness, I think, about our mental health and how  certain tools in acting can either help or hinder our mental health.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing where you go next with this!

Add Reply