Enhancing Healthy Cognitive Aging Through Theater Arts



This article reports on 15 years of studies that document the benefits of a short course in acting for theater and film. These studies provide evidence that older adults can experience enhanced memory, problem-solving ability, comprehension, creativity, and sense of personal growth compared to no-treatment controls or those who undergo alternate courses of instruction (visual arts or music).


Cognitive Measure Learning Principle Rote Memorization Theatrical Scene Digit Span Backward 


Author Notes

This work was supported by Grants # 1 R 15 AG018266-01, 1 R15 AG026306-01, and 1 R15 AG032120-01 from the National Institute on Aging.


  1. Anderson, R. C., & Pichert, J. (1978). Recall of previously unrecallable Informationfollowing a shift in perspective. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 17, 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cohen, G. D. (2005). The mature mind: The positive power of the aging brain. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  3. Cohen, R. L. (1989). Memory for action events: The power of enactment. Educational Psychology Review, 1, 57–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Diehl, M., Marsiske, M., Horgas, A. L., Rosenberg, A., Saczynski, J. S., & Willis, S. L. (2005). The revised observed tasks of daily living: A performance-based assessment of everyday problem solving in older adults. The Journal of Applied Gerontology, 24(3), 211–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dooling, D. J., & Lachman, R. (1971). Effects of comprehension on retention of prose. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 88, 216–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Engelkamp, J., & Zimmer, H. D. (1994). The human memory: A multimodal approach. Seattle: Hogrefe & Huber.Google Scholar
  7. Nilsson, L. G. (2000). Remembering actions and words. In E. Tulving & F. I. M. Craik (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of memory (pp. 137–148). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Noice, H. (1991). The role of explanations and plan recognition in the learning of theatrical scripts. Cognitive Science, 15, 425–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Noice, H. (1992). Elaborative memory strategies of professional actors. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 6, 417–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Noice, H. (1993). Effects of rote vs. gist strategy on the verbatim retention of theatrical script. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 7, 75–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Noice, H., & Noice, T. (1993). The effects of segmentation on the recall of theatrical material. Poetics, 22, 51–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Noice, H., & Noice, T. (1994). An example of role preparation by a professional actor: A think-aloud protocol. Discourse Processes, 18, 34–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Noice, H., & Noice, T. (1996). Two approaches to learning a theatrical script. Memory, 4(1), 1–17.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Noice, T., & Noice, H. (1997a). Effort and active experiencing as factors in verbatim recall. Discourse Processes, 23, 51–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Noice, T., & Noice, H. (1997b). The nature of expertise in professional acting: A cognitive view. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  16. Noice, H., & Noice, T. (1999). Long-term retention of theatrical roles. Memory, 7(3), 357–382.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Noice, H., & Noice, T. (2001). Learning dialogue with and without movement. Memory and Cognition, 29(6), 820–828.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Noice, T., & Noice, H. (2002). Very long-term recall and recognition of well-learned material. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 16, 259–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Noice, T., & Noice, H. (2004). A cognitive learning principle derived from the role acquisition strategies of professional actors. The International Journal of Cognitive Technology, 9(1), 34–39.Google Scholar
  20. Noice, T., & Noice, H. (2006). A theatrical intervention to improve cognition in intact residents of long term care facilities. Clinical Gerontologist Journal, 29(3), 59–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Noice, H., & Noice, T. (2009). An arts intervention for older adults living in subsidized retirement homes. Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition, 1, 1–24.Google Scholar
  22. Noice, H., Noice, T., & Kennedy, C. (2000). The contribution of movement on the recall of complex material. Memory, 8(6), 353–363.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Noice, H., Noice, T., Perrig-Chiello, P., & Perrig, W. (1999). Improving memory in older adults by instructing them in professional actors’ learning strategies. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 13, 315–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Noice, H., Noice, T., & Staines, G. (2004). A short-term intervention to enhance cognitive and affective functioning in older adults. Journal of Aging and Health, 16(4), 562–585.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Owens, J., Bower, G. H., & Black, J. B. (1979). The “soap-opera” effect in story recall. Memory and Cognition, 7, 185–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Perrig-Chiello, P., Perrig, W. J., Staehelin, H. B., Krebs-Roubicek, E., & Ehrsam, R. (1996). Well-being, health and autonomy in elderly: Basel interdisciplinary study on aging (IDA). Zeitschrift fuer Gerontologie und Geriatrie, 29, 95–109.Google Scholar
  27. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Ryff, C. D., & Keyes, C. L. M. (1995). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(4), 719–727.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sulin, R. A., & Dooling, D. J. (1974). Intrusion of a thematic idea in retention of prose. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 103(2), 255–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of TheatreElmhurst CollegeElmhurstUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyElmhurst CollegeElmhurstUSA

Personalised recommendations