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Proof: Improv White Papers

Now we have even more evidence that improv is seriously good for you.

As reported in Psychology Today magazine, a new white paper proves what most improvisers have known all along. This stuff is good for you.

This study is a great addition to Peter Felsman’s which showed that “improv experience promotes divergent thinking, uncertainty tolerance, and affective well-being.” We especially love his statement that “co-creativity and unpredictability distinguish improv from other social interactions.”

Check out the abstracts for both studies below.

Improv to Improve: The Impact of Improvisational Theater on Creativity, Acceptance, and Psychological Well-Being.

As published in the Journal of Creativity in Mental Health and written by Diana Schwenken, Maja Dshemuchadse, Lisa Rasehorn, Dominik Klarhölter & Stefan Scherbaum.

Abstract

Improvisational theatre (improv) is a form of theatre where dialogue, characters, and story are created spontaneously by its actors on stage.

In the last years, different improv techniques have gained increasing popularity and spread into fields beyond comedy and performing art, e.g., business organizations and educational programs. However, the beneficial impact of improv on psychological variables has barely been investigated.

In this study, we aim to fill this gap and contribute to a scientific investigation of improvisational theatre on various variables that measure creativity, acceptance, and psychological well-being. In a controlled trial, 30 participants in the intervention group and 28 in the waiting control group completed six different tests and questionnaires prior and post to a 6-week improv intervention or waiting time, respectively.

We found significant improvement in participants’ creativity and psychological well-being due to the intervention but no evidence for enhanced acceptance.

Read the white paper

Improv Experience Promotes Divergent Thinking, Uncertainty Tolerance, and Affective Well-Being.

As published on ScienceDirect.com and written by Peter Felsman, Sanuri Gunawardenac, and Colleen M. Seifert.

Abstract

Background: Training in improvisational theatre is a widely available, popular and entertaining activity. It also is linked to a variety of psychological benefits, such as reductions in anxiety and depression in adult psychiatric patients (Krueger et al., 2017) and in social anxiety among adolescent public-school students (Felsman et al., 2019). However, research on its benefits has generally lacked the rigour of randomized experiments.

Aims: This paper follows an experimental method from previous research linking improvisation training to improvements in divergent thinking in the laboratory (Lewis & Lovatt, 2013), and includes an additional dependent variable, uncertainty tolerance, which has been broadly implicated in anxiety and depression (McEvoy & Mahoney, 2012).

Method: In two experiments (n = 74, n = 131), participants completed measures of divergent thinking, uncertainty tolerance, and affective well-being before and after engaging in 20 min of improv exercises or a matched control condition including social interactions.

Results: This paper replicates the prior finding that improvisational theatre training can improve divergent thinking (e.g., Lewis & Lovatt, 2013; Sowden et al., 2015), and provides new findings that improv can boost positive affect and increase uncertainty tolerance relative to other social interactions.

Conclusions: As a means to enhance psychological health, improvisational theatre training offers benefits without the negative stigma and difficulties in access surrounding other therapeutic interventions. These results support its popular use beyond the theatre to improve social and personal interactions in a variety of settings.

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