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Study uses theater to analyze attitudes toward stereotypes


February 25, 2013

"Theatre and Attitudes" is a transdisciplinary study between psychology and theater designed to gather and analyze empirical data to investigate the role of live and mediated performance in altering implicit associations.

This project began with a question: How, if at all, can viewing performance change our attitudes, specifically in regard to previously held stereotypes? Participants in the study were trained on the Implicit Association Test (IAT; Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998) to become familiar with the procedure and determine a baseline, followed by the viewing of two castings of a short scene. Participants were then administered the test a second time.

The scene, act I, scene 1 from Will Eno's "Middletown,"* portrays two characters, a cop and a bum (mechanic). Both are written as stereotypic characters – the cop wears a uniform and carries a nightstick, the mechanic is drinking liquor from a brown paper bag. In the scene, the cop intimidates the mechanic, and by the end of the scene, puts mechanic in a chokehold. The scene was written for two white men, but for the sake of this experiment, the researchers explored how audiences responded to the alternative casting of a woman and man in the roles of cop and mechanic. By casting the powerful character as female, the researchers were able to test if expectations for power and violence change when spectators observe a female power figure intimidating a male victim.
 
On March 6, the research team will show the filmed version of the scene with two different casts, followed by a discussion of their findings. Primary investigators of the project are Bonnie Eckard, professor in the School of Theatre and Film and Arthur Glenberg, psychology professor.
 
Refreshments will be provided.

*Permission to use this scene was provided by SUBIAS, NYC