Response to the performed story : tracking emotional response to a theatrical performance using galvanic skin response



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Psychologists have used biometric data since the early 1900s to analyze the emotional responses of such subjects as students, patients with autism, and adults suffering from stress. Biometric data, the recording of physiological responses such as galvanic skin response, heart rate, and eye blinking frequency, shows peaks in emotional response to stimuli in a human’s environment. Galvanic skin response (GSR) is the most potent form of biometric data used for the study of emotional arousal. GSR, if studied in tandem with stimuli, can help researchers identify events in a subject’s environment that trigger emotion. GSR has been used to analyze responses to performance arts, but these studies are typically performed in controlled environments using video-taped performances and not under live performance conditions. Furthermore, this research is more often conducted using dance and not theatre, and often the material studied is less than ½ hour in length. This study combines techniques from several prominent studies of GSR for performing arts response research and applies them to the analysis of a 1 and ½ hour theatrical performance. GSR data is collected from six audience members during live performances of this theatrical work and the subjects are interviewed based on their galvanic skin response recorded during the play. The results of the analysis and interviews are reported to the director and design team of the play in order to inform them of the emotional impact of their work. Such information holds the potential to inform the creative team’s future play-making processes.