Cognitive psychology meets art: Exploring creativity, language, and emotion through live musical improvisation in film and theatre

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Creativity is primarily defined as a mental phenomenon that engages multiple cognitive processes to generate novel and useful solutions to problems. There are two core problem-solving modes: long-term deliberate methodical vs. short-term spontaneous. Despite behavioral models integrating the multiple activities (e.g. technical and financial issues, emotional responses) arising within and the socio-cultural effects surrounding the long-term creative process in various artistic disciplines, no systematic study exists of short-term improvisatory behavior in response to emotional stimuli within such ecologically valid contexts as film and theatre. In this paper I present and discuss the novel use of one cinematic and one theatrical project that investigate spontaneous creative thinking and emotion perception, particularly as it pertains to inthemoment expressive translation of emotional scenic variables such as actors' movements and dialogue to musical language. Both projects explore the six universal human emotions (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise) and were performed and recorded with live improvised music by professional jazz musicians. Combining visual scene analysis with musical feature analysis of the improvised scores, I propose a cognitive feedback model of spontaneous creative emotional innovation that integrates music, spoken language, and emotional expression within the context of live music scoring in both film and theatre. This work also serves as an appeal towards more arts-based cognitive research and interdisciplinary methods in the study of human intelligence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of SPIE-IS and T Electronic Imaging - Human Vision and Electronic Imaging XX
EditorsBernice E. Rogowitz, Thrasyvoulos N. Pappas, Huib de Ridder
ISBN (Electronic)9781628414844
StatePublished - 2015
EventHuman Vision and Electronic Imaging XX - San Francisco, United States
Duration: Feb 9 2015Feb 12 2015

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


ConferenceHuman Vision and Electronic Imaging XX
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco


  • Art-based data
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Creativity
  • Emotion
  • Film
  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Musical improvisation
  • Theatre

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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