Why Psychology is Important to Actors

Using psychology skillfully in your acting work may be one of the actor's most important tools.

“What is my character’s motivation?” While this question is perhaps a caricature of the earnest actor’s quest for realistic performance, it is also a serious psychological investigation. ALL contemporary actors, whether on stage, film, or television, go to at least some lengths in exploring or making psychological choices about the characters they play. But what psychology do they use in making their judgments? Is it the behaviorism or Freudian psychoanalysis of the 1940s and 1950s? The “pop” psychology of the 1960s humanistic movement? Cognitive neuroscience? The personality theories of Adler, Rank, or Jung? What about psychological types such as introverted and extroverted? Abnormal or positive psychology? Put another way, how much actual psychology does the average actor really know and use?

Psychology helps us define character and make explicit choices.

While nearly ALL actors regularly make fundamental and sometimes defining psychological decisions regarding the roles they play, very rarely is psychology a formal part of an actor’s training. Whether at the conservatory or university theatre department, psychology class is simply not part of the standard curriculum, even though working actors use it, in some form, every day!

I have been an actor for more than 30 years and I am here to guarantee that, for the working actor, psychology is the most important tool that you use in your craft (whether you are aware of it or not...). Every time you think about your character's motivation, your character's background or family life, how your character feels about something or someone else in the world of the play or movie or TV show you are performing in, you are using some form of psychology.

The most interesting thing about modern psychology is that there are multiple different "schools" that look at the human condition from different and often unique (and sometimes contradictory) perspectives. There are literally dozens of theories out there that go far beyond traditional Freudian psychology or simple behaviorism that most people are at least vaguely familiar with. There are Carl Jung's theories about individuation and personality "types" (like introvert and extrovert), or Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs (which is a very useful model for discovering a character's motivation). And it goes on from there.

So, how does the serious actor, student or professional, actually apply these myriad theories and models to their work on a specific character or a particular scene?

Psychology for Actors: Theories and Practices for the Acting Process is specifically designed for actors to apply to their creative process.

Psychology for Actors is the first basic textbook of modern psychological theories specifically designed for the professional actor or the actor-in training. Psychology for Actors covers all of the important areas of modern psychology from a perspective that actors can understand and use in their creative process. It includes explanations of, and exercises based on:

  • Freud and Anna Freud (psychoanalysis and defense mechanisms)
  • Carl Jung (dream work, types, and active imagination)
  • Alfred Adler (inferiority complexes and the Will to Power)
  • Karen Horney (social psychology)
  • Erik Erikson (lifespan development)
  • Abraham Maslow (hierarchy of needs and humanistic psychology)
  • Ken Wilber (integral psychology and 4-quadrant reality)
  • Plus a history of psychology in the West and its influence on the actor's craft

Psychology for Actors uses everyday language to explain the fundamentals of Western psychology and gives specific examples about how the theories can be applied in rehearsal and performance.

If you have ever wanted to deepen or otherwise improve your skills as an actor, this is the first major book to help you grow by directly applying psychology to your work.

Kevin Page Character Actor
Kevin Page is a working actor, author, and holds an MA degree in psychology.

Kevin Page is an American author, actor, and holds a master’s degree in psychology. He writes about mindfulness meditation and other healthy mind/body training techniques. As an actor he has appeared in over 70 films and TV programs and 100 commercials, voice overs, and stage plays. His books include: 150% Better Auditions, which teaches actors and other performers how to improve their craft through meditation training. Advanced Consciousness Training (A.C.T.) for Actors: Meditation Techniques for the Performing Artist, and Psychology for Actors: Theories and Practices for the Acting Process.


He can be found on several social media platforms, including:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/150PercentBetter

Twitter and Instagram: @KevinWPage

IMDB Page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0656241/

YouTube Channel: http://bit.ly/2FBPTvU

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