Theatre makes our hearts go boom boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom

Sandra Giorgetti

A study by University College London has revealed that that audience members' hearts beat to the same rhythm.

Dr Joseph Devlin, head of experimental psychology at University College London, said “usually, a group of individuals will each have their own heart rates and rhythms, with little relationship to each other. But during experiences with heightened levels of emotion, people’s heart beats can become synchronised, which in itself is astounding.

“Experiencing the live theatre performance was extraordinary enough to overcome group differences and produce a common physiological experience in the audience members.”

The research monitored the heart rates and skin response of 12 selected audience members at a performance of musical Dreamgirls at London's Savoy Theatre in August.

During the interval, participants’ heart rate synchrony decreased over all but persisted amongst the smaller social groups that audience members engage with during the break.

Dr Devlin, explained, “our hypothesis is that it’s at this point, the interval, that the audience members are engaged with each other, discussing the show within their social groups. During this social interaction with each other, we can see that their arousal synchronises with the people that they know, but not with the rest of the audience as a whole.”

The research project was undertaken with Encore Tickets.