The Impact of Art: Exploring the Social-Psychological Pathways That Connect Audiences to Live Performances

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Abstract

Group growth is of fundamental importance to understanding social influence. How do passive bystanders become psychologically involved when observing a small group of actors? Our hypothesis was that the kind of solidarity displayed by the group shapes the bonds that emerge with an audience. We studied audience responses to modern dance performances and conducted 2 field experiments and 1 lab experiment (N = 263, 363, and 147). Performances were developed jointly with choreographers: Dancers acted as an aggregate of individuals or displayed mechanical or organic solidarity. As predicted, the emergent bond between audience members and dancers was influenced by the kind of solidarity on display. When dancers displayed mechanical solidarity, the emergence of bonds was mainly predicted by perceived unity. When organic solidarity was displayed, the individual value of each dancer played a key role. Interestingly, overall artistic evaluation was affected in parallel with the development of bonds: the kind of solidarity displayed influenced performance evaluation. Finally, Experiment 2b showed that solidarity displayed on stage influenced the postperformance cooperative behavior among audience members. The article discusses the social psychological pathways by which performing arts influence communities and society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)942-965
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Volume116
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2019

Keywords

  • mechanical solidarity
  • organic solidarity
  • group formation
  • dance
  • coordinated action
  • SELF-CATEGORIZATION
  • MOVEMENT SYNCHRONY
  • SHARED IDENTITY
  • INDIVIDUALISM
  • RAPPORT
  • COLLECTIVISM
  • RELIABILITY
  • FEATHER
  • BIRDS
  • MODEL

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