Developing an actor’s intuition
: minds beyond muses

  • Micia de Wet

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This PhD demonstrates that the actor’s intuition is developable as an embodied cognition. This research proposes that the actor’s intuition is a necessary cognitive process insofar as it can facilitate an immersion into a performance and encourage affective engagement. This research has three aims: first, the production of a conceptualisation of intuition as an embodied cognition; second, the production of an original somatic acting training method to develop the actor’s intuition as it is conceptualised; and finally, an analysis of the method’s efficacy. This research is situated within a Euro-American, English-speaking paradigm of knowledge.

In this PhD intuition is defined as an energetic sensitivity, meaning the ability to be sensitive to the affective states of oneself, another, and an environment. This definition distinguishes intuition from existing conceptions which synonymise it with tacit, expert, self-evident (i.e., a priori) knowledge, and instinct. Defined as an energetic sensitivity, intuition is conceptualised as an embodied cognitive process and state which is responsive to the dynamics of an environment, rather than as a wealth of established skills or knowledges that are often deemed to be ‘subconscious’ or part of the unconscious faculty of the mind.

This study offers a developed conceptualisation of intuition for actors, which was previously absent in acting scholarship. This research challenges the belief that the actor’s intuition is an undevelopable, subconscious phenomenon by offering a somatic acting training method to develop it. By offering actors a way to develop their intuition, this research addresses particular tensions that have arisen between the mainstream acting industry and actor training processes. These tensions are the effect that limited rehearsal and training time has on the actor’s creative state of mind, as well as the trend towards inclusivity and globalisation in professional practice.

This project employs a Practice as Research (PaR) methodology that is shaped with an integrationist model of interdisciplinarity. The study integrates the disciplines of acting training, cognitive science, and somatics. This research methodology was shaped with an integrationist model of interdisciplinarity in order to argue for and explore the possibility of the development of an actor’s intuition as an embodied cognition, which is the central objective of the research. This research uses a combination of qualitative, quantitative, and arts-based methods to generate and collect data. To conduct this study, data from secondary research, semi-structured interviews, workshops, group discussions, journals, psychological scales, and behavioural tasks are used. This PhD consists of this written thesis and a somatic acting training method that was examined on the 17th of May 2022 at Coventry University. A link to a recording of one of the workshops where the method was explored can be found in Chapter Four on page 59
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorEmma Meehan (Supervisor) & Valerie van Mulukom (Supervisor)

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