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.
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