Quantifying dance in the audience's mind: a methodological quest for neuroscience research

Corinne Jola*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Audience research in the domain of neuroscience has advanced our understanding of how spectators process what they see on stage. The focus of this kind of research is primarily on the functioning of the human brain and behaviour, irrespective of spectators’ lived experience. The widely used theoretical underpinning is the mirror neuron network, which manifests itself through a correspondence between the neuronal activities of a passively watching audience member with that of the performer, as if the spectator was internally mirroring the actions seen on stage. It thus links to ideas of a shared sensorimotor experience between spectator and performer, which has a long tradition in the performing arts discourse in terms of audiences’ kinaesthetic experience. Research showed that this experience is dependent on personal preferences, expertise and personality. One could thus argue that what is of particular interest is the spectacle that takes place in the audience’s mind. Accordingly, the cultural, formal and qualitative aspects of a performance constitute an important methodological factor. This chapter provides an overview of the conditions of scientific technologies employed and explains how these contradict principles of creative and cultural practices of the performing arts, which has led to shifts in methodological discussions.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge companion to audiences and the performing arts
EditorsMatthew Reason, Lynne Conner, Katya Johanson, Ben Walmsley
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781000537963
ISBN (Print)9780367470753, 9780367695842
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2022

Publication series

NameThe Routledge Theatre & Performance Series in Audience Research


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