Exploring the Connection Between Acting and Empathy

Merriam-Webster defines ‘empathy’ as the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience yourself. Just imagine our world if we all had more capacity for this! It turns out; there is a way to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes—acting. And it’s incredibly beneficial in bolstering empathy in children. Let’s explore the connection between acting and empathy.

Understanding the Role of Acting

Sanford Meisner, American actor and acting teacher who created the Meisner technique, once said, “Acting is the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” It’s true; actors embody another person, taking on roles to realistically portray their character’s feelings and circumstances. And to do so, they must dig into the beliefs, desires, and motivations of that character. Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki states that, “By putting ourselves into the story of people who, on the surface, appear different from us, we can recognize our common humanity with them, and that can trigger empathy in a really natural way.”

The Research Behind Acting and Empathy

Research supports the notion above. In two separate studies, researchers Thalia Goldstein and Ellen Winner from Boston College tested the hypothesis that acting leads to growth in empathy. They did so by following elementary school-aged children and adolescents who received one year of either acting or other arts training such as visual arts or music. They assessed empathy both before and after training. In both studies, those who received acting training showed “significant gains in empathy scores,” which suggests that empathy is “enhanced by role-playing.” The same gains did not occur with the other arts training.

How to Get Your Child Started in Acting

Zaki contends that empathy is like a muscle that can be strengthened with exercise. Regular acting lessons are an excellent way for your child to develop that empathy muscle! At Expression City, acting lessons are available through our Homeschool Performing Arts Academy. We also offer improv, auditioning, audition taping, and private coaching for children.

Here, your child will learn different techniques that allow them to become familiar with both the practical and technical aspects of acting while experiencing how to truly embody the spirit and personalities of characters in various roles. Plus, many of our experienced instructors are working professionals with real-life experience in art and the business of acting.

Our previous blog, 6 Considerations When Choosing an Acting School for Your Child, can also help and shares even more benefits of acting.

Contact us today to schedule or learn more about the connection between acting and empathy at Expression City!