What do you guys think: Does the personality of professional actors differ from non-actors? And if it does is it in good or bad ways?
Often (rather in the past than today) actors are seen as being “different” from “normal” people. There have always been these stereotypes of actors which vary in claims like actors have poorly integrated, largely hysteric and schizoid personalities. They are narcissistic, passive, vulnerable to stress and they are more exhibitionistic and impulsive than non-actors. Plus they never pay their bills, swear terribly in public and drink way too much. Explanations of these behaviors have been the high unemployment in this domain, the temporary nature of work and the “vagaries of the acting profession” for example. Psychology has done little to reduce these stereotypes. Plus like I wrote in my last blog entry there is often the danger that the character´s personality and the actor´s get somehow mixed, that the actor gets confused about his or her identity.
On the other hand according to Goffman´s role-theory which says that every person is playing different roles in his life given by society (like a mother, a child, a brother, a friend, etc.) individuals in everyday life “act” as well as actors in dramatic roles.
So is there a different in personality of actors and non-actors or in their everyday behavior?
There is one popular study by Hammond and Edelmann, University of Surrey (1991) I want to introduce to you.
They examined 161 subjects of which 51 were professional actors, 58 were amateur actors and 52 were non-actors (teachers, back officials, etc.). The mean ages vary between 38 and 43 years. Each of them was given a set of 6 standardized questionnaires which they had to complete in 20-30 minutes:
1. The Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (extraversion, neuroticism and psychoticism)
2. The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (extend one values onseself)
3.The revised Self-Monitoring and Concern Appropriateness Scale (sensitivity to expressive behavior of others)
4.The Marlowe-Crown Social Desirability Scale (need to respond in cultural sanction)
5.The Self-Consciousness Scale (private and public self-consciousness and social anxiety)
6.The Shyness and Sociability Scale (shyness and sociability)
The results showed that there are indeed personality differences between actors and non-actors. However the results do not support the negative stereotypes mentioned before. Professional actors (according to that study)
-are less shy
-are less socially anxious
-are more sociable
-are more privately self-conscious
-less attentive to social comparison
-more sensitive to the expressive behavior of others
The continual change of roles and the exploration of the psyche and behavior can be seen as one explanation of these findings. But of course there is not an actor personality type which describes all actors per se. By the way actors and amateur actors didn´t differ a lot from each other in that study. That might be because both feel the need to express aspects of their personality through dramatic roles.