Theatre improv makes people happier, creative, tolerant of uncertainty: study

CHICAGO (XINHUA) – A study by researchers at the University of Michigan (UM) and Stony Brook University found that 20 minutes of improv experience causes people to feel comfortable and more tolerant of uncertainty.

The researchers completed two experiments to determine if an improvisational theatre experience could boost one’s well-being and creativity, according to the study posted on the website of the UM on Wednesday.

In one experiment, improvisation activity was compared to a control with social interactions where people picked a friend to talk about, a movie to discuss and physical actions to demonstrate. The improv group improved more in divergent thinking, but both groups increased in feeling good and comfort with uncertainty.

A second experiment involved scripted social tasks for the control group, and only improvisation tasks allowed participants to create their interactions. In this experiment, only the improv group experienced increased positive emotions and comfort with uncertainty.

The study highlighted three key features of improvisation as an intervention: it engages creativity and idea discovery by working with others, improves mood and increases comfort with uncertain (unscripted) social interactions.

“Improvisation is shown in these experiments to produce benefits beyond every day, routine social interactions,” said study co-author Colleen Seifert, UM professor of psychology.

Overall, improv enhances psychological health without the negative stigmas and difficulties in access surrounding other therapeutic interventions, researchers said.

The study has been published in Thinking Skills and Creativity.