Measuring an embodied reaction: Is surface electromyography a suitable method of measuring kinesthetic empathy interaction as an embodied concept? / Alishea Fernyhough (2019)

Measuring an embodied reaction: Is surface electromyography a suitable method of measuring kinesthetic empathy interaction as an embodied concept?

Author: Alishea Fernyhough

Course: MSc Dance Science

Year: 2019

Keywords: Body movement studies, Embodiment, Kinesthetics, Phenomenology of dance, Quantitative research,

Abstract

There is currently little quantitative research into the measurement of kinesthetic empathy interaction (KEI) on a bodily basis. Whilst studies within neuroscience and dance tend to use brain mapping techniques to measure cortical excitability to as
means of investigating KEI or alternatively, use qualitative methods such as selfreflective interviews to gain understanding into the affective experience of KEI, there are few attempts to pair cognitive models to affective experience and embodiment to
form the basis of understanding.

This study aimed to investigate the suitability of surface electromyography (sEMG) as a quantitative method of measuring KEI as an embodied concept as informed by phenomenological research revering KEI as a bodily experience. The study aimed to
discover if there was a muscular reaction in the lower extremity of the legs in response to a visual movement stimulus depicting the legs executing ballet movement to spectators with ballet experience.

Data obtained from 16 female dance students in supplementary ballet training was analysed for this study. The medial and lateral gastrocnemius muscles showed significant deviations outside the standard deviations derived from the means of the
baseline data. This could indicate significant muscular activation in response to the visual stimulus. When compared to the control dancer’s muscular activation during the phrase, the data obtained from the left medial gastrocnemius in particular showed significant activation when observing movement which required the muscle in question for execution.

Whilst there were some significant results shown, the use of sEMG as means of observing such slight muscular reaction showed no significant results in the tibialis anterior, peroneus longus and brevis muscles and the extensor digitorium longus. This suggests that a more precise method of measuring muscular activity may be valuable in investigating this concept further.

In conclusion, sEMG has indicated that there is significant muscular activity to be observed in the spectator’s body whilst watching dance. This alludes to KEI existing on a physiological basis as well as a cortical activation whilst observing movement and coincides with phenomenological perspectives of KEI existing as a form of embodiment. Whilst refinement of the method is needed to provide more accurate results from smaller muscle groups, this study is a starting point for further research into the measurement of embodied reactions and the cohesion of phenomenological and neuroscientific paradigms to further understanding.

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APA
Fernyhough, Alishea. (2019). Measuring an embodied reaction: Is surface electromyography a suitable method of measuring kinesthetic empathy interaction as an embodied concept? (Masters’ theses). Retrieved https://researchonline.trinitylaban.ac.uk/oa/thesis/?p=1277