Methods for measuring audience reactions

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Stevens, C, Glass, R, Schubert, E, Chen, J & Winskel, H 2007, 'Methods for measuring audience reactions', in E Schubert, K Buckley, R Eliott, B Koboroff, J Chen & C Stevens (eds), Proceedings of the Inaugural International Conference on Music Communication Science, Sydney, NSW, 5-7 November, ARC Research Network in Human Communication Science (HCSNet), pp. 155-158.

Peer Reviewed



This paper describes recent developments in ourinvestigations into psychological reactions of audiencemembers as they watch live performance, specificallycontemporary dance. The first method, developed by Glass [5,6], is a new psychometric instrument – theAudience Response Tool (ART) – that records emotionaland cognitive responses in the form of qualitative open-ended descriptions and quantitative ratings to live performance. The second method – the portable Audience Response Facility (pARF) – is a programmable, hand-heldPC that samples one- or two-dimensional datacontinuously as a performance unfolds. A third method records eye movements of novice and expert observers asthey watch a pre-recorded performance. The ART was developed in the context of an experimental design that investigated the effect of pre-performance information sessions (generic, specific, no information-control group)on cognitive and emotional responses to two new Australian dance works, Anna Smith's Red Rain and SueHealey's Fine Line Terrain. The pARF has been used to record continuous responses from 19 audience membersin the Playhouse Theatre in Canberra as they watched the Quantum Leap Youth Choreographic Ensemble perform Albert David’s Silent Heartbeat. Judged emotiona lexpression in the 30 minute work was captured in tw oorthogonal dimensions, valence and arousal [13]. The pARF revealed an increase in arousal as the work progressed, explicable in terms of music and movementintensity and tempo. The eye movement experimentinvestigated effects of observer expertise on fixationduration and saccadic amplitude while four dance expertsand four novices watched a five-minute dance film, SueHealey's 13 and 32. Expert observers relative to novices recorded shorter fixations and larger saccades. This effect has been interpreted in light of organizational strategies and expectancies acquired by experts through experience with a particular art form. The qualitative and quantitative methods have wide application across the performing arts,film, and digital media.