Communication Studies


Master of Arts (MA)


Darlene Graves

Primary Subject Area

Psychology, General; Theater


Cognitive Dissonance, Qualitative Research, Role-play Performance, Self-concept


Actors in general are passionate about their art. It is a constant balancing act for actors to keep their lives separate from the roles they play on the stage. This paper focuses upon role-play performance, cognitive dissonance, and self-concept development in theater education. The focus of this study is specifically upon the causes and effects of cognitive dissonance in female theater students from three colleges in the central Virginia area. Qualitative research was obtained through the use of interviews. Ten students were each asked a set of six questions based on the roles they played and performances they were a part of. This study concluded that a majority of students do deal with cognitive dissonance and are able to attribute this dissonance to the roles they have played, the productions they have participated in, as well as the overall experience of being involved in theater. There were also significant benefits discovered such as the development of a positive self-concept based on student feedback. It was difficult to measure either good or bad effects of this cognitive dissonance in these actors. The results were fairly even, though the negative effects slightly outweighed the positive effects. These results were attributed to the variety of roles played by each actor and the surrounding conditions of the production and schools represented. Recommendations for future research are discussed.