The University of California Institute for Research in the Arts supports embedded arts research through critical exchange

IS LOVE A TENDER THING? Research into the Secrets of Emotion at UCSB

UCSB Multicultural Center
05/20/2012 3:00 PM


A lecture performance on acting, emotions, the brain and where true emotions lie.


Can brain imaging help answer the question of whether actors in a play express genuine emotion or just fake it? Professional actors go through arduous training employing diverse methods to convey complex feelings and stir genuine compassion in their audiences. But just how far acting really goes or to what extent actors merely pretend (“impersonate”) emotion has been generating debate between the arts and science for decades. Especially, the notion of “emotional memory”, a core element of actor training, has remained controversial in the scientific community. With its research program, “Authenticity of Emotion,” the Zurich University of the Arts has partnered with scientists to probe the idea. Supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Institute for the Performing Arts and Film teamed with the Swiss Epilepsy center in Zurich. Using modern brain imaging technology, their joint research examines whether top actors use true emotion in their performances or not. With the aid of two local actors, Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” balcony scene, and data from a 3 Tesla fMRI scanner neurologist Thomas Grunwald and dramaturg Anton Rey will present lively answers to these questions.


Thomas Grunwald is a neurologist specializing in clinical neurophysiology and presurgical evaluations for epilepsy surgery at the Swiss Epilepsy Centre in Zurich (EPI). He teaches neurology at Bonn University Medical Centre and cooperates in the study of neurophysiological correlates of artistic and rhetorical communication with the Zurich University of the Arts, Switzerland, and the University of Arts and Design in Karlsruhe, Germany.


Anton Rey has worked a director and dramaturg in numerous theatres and Festivals in Germany, France, Scotland and Austria. Since 2022 he teaches Drama theory, history and dramaturgy at the Zurich University of Applied Science. In 2007 he became head of the Swiss Research Institute for the Performing Arts and Film (IPF). He is currently research fellow and guest professor at UCSB Department of Theater and Dance.


Supported by: UCSB Theater and Dance and IPF Institute for the Performing Arts & Film, Zurich University of the Arts.

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