Storytelling as a fundamental form of acting.
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Acting is a process of pretending to be someone who the actor is not. While acting is often considered to be a specialized skill of trained professionals, a simple and perhaps universal form of acting occurs during oral storytelling, in which the storyteller acts out the characters of the story during the moments of dialogue and self-reflection. In order to examine this skill experimentally, we had both trained actors and untrained novices read four fairy tales aloud. The stories contained a series of contrastive characters that spanned age, gender, and species. The major dependent variables were the vocal parameters of pitch height, loudness, timbre, and speech rate. The results demonstrated that participants created distinguishable acoustic profiles for each character within a story, regardless of the story’s familiarity. Monotonic trend analyses revealed the sequential changes in vocal parameters that were produced as a function of the age, gender, and species of the represented characters. Linear mixed-effects models showed a significant effect of acting training on character portrayal, with actors showing more-expansive pitch depictions than novices. We argue that portraying characters during storytelling is one of the most fundamental forms of acting in human life.
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