Using Wearable Sensors to Measure Interpersonal Synchrony in Actors and Audience Members During a Live Theatre Performance

Sun, Yanke; Greaves, Dwaynica A; Orgs, Guido; de C. Hamilton, Antonia F; Day, Sally and Ward, Jamie A. 2023. Using Wearable Sensors to Measure Interpersonal Synchrony in Actors and Audience Members During a Live Theatre Performance. Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies, 7(1), 27. ISSN 2474-9567 [Article]

Using Wearable Sensors to Measure Interpersonal Synchrony in Actors and Audience Members During a Live Theatre Performance.pdf - Accepted Version

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Studying social interaction in real-world settings is of increasing importance to social cognitive researchers. Theatre provides an ideal opportunity to study rich face-to-face interactions in a controlled, yet natural setting. Here we collaborated with Flute Theatre to investigate interpersonal synchrony between actors-actors, actors-audience and audience-audience within a live theatrical setting. Our 28 participants consisted of 6 actors and 22 audience members, with 5 of these audience members being audience participants in the show. The performance was a compilation of acting, popular science talks and demonstrations, and an audience participation period. Interpersonal synchrony was measured using inertial measurement unit (IMU) wearable accelerometers worn on the heads of participants, whilst audio-visual data recorded everything that occurred on the stage. Participants also completed post-show self-report questionnaires on their engagement with the overall scientists and actors performance. Cross Wavelet Transform (XWT) and Wavelet Coherence Transform (WCT) analysis were conducted to extract synchrony at different frequencies, pairing with audio-visual data. Findings revealed that XWT and WCT analysis are useful methods in extracting the multiple types of synchronous activity that occurs when people perform or watch a live performance together. We also found that audience members with higher ratings on questionnaire items such as the strength of their emotional response to the performance, or how empowered they felt by the performance, showed a high degree of interpersonal synchrony with actors during the acting segments of performance. We further found that audience members rated the scientists performance higher than the actors performance on questions related to their emotional response to the performance as well as, how uplifted, empowered, and connected to social issues they felt. This shows the types of potent connections audience members can have with live performances. Additionally, our findings highlight the importance of the performance context for audience engagement, in our case a theatre performance as part of public engagement with science rather than a stand-alone theatre performance. In sum we conclude that interdisciplinary real-world paradigms are an important and understudied route to understanding in-person social interactions.

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"© 2018 Copyright held by the owner/author(s). This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive Version of Record is available at,"

This work is supported by funding from UCL Grand Challenges and Goldsmiths Research & Enterprise Committee. GO and JW are supported by funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 864420 - Neurolive). JW is funded by a Leverhulme supported grant from The British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering and Royal Society (APX\R1\201093).


wearable sensors, audiences, theatre neuroscience, live performance, interpersonal synchrony, face-to-face interaction

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16 February 2023Accepted
28 March 2023Published

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29 Mar 2023 14:01

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30 Mar 2023 00:03

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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