The Improviser’s Lazy Brain

Improvisation and cognition

Authored by: Gunter Lösel

The Routledge Companion to Theatre, Performance, and Cognitive Science

Print publication date:  September  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138048898
eBook ISBN: 9781315169927
Adobe ISBN:


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Good actors are not always good improvisers and good improvisers are not always good actors. Although these skills overlap, there seem to be specific abilities and cognitive functions required for improvisational theatre. Improvisers have more freedom; they deal with countless options and constantly make choices while playing with other improvisers. So improvisation might be described as a process of decision-making. How do improvisers make these choices? How do they arrive at, and select, new options? How can they do this without hesitation, ‘thinking’ or the audience noticing? Is improvisation simply a process of quick decision-making? How does an improvising actor’s mind work? Can cognitive science help us understand improvisation? In this section, I will look at three approaches that might help explain how improvisers’ minds work.

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