Cognition, Intelligence and Language

Ep 226 (video): The Psychology of Dance Part 2 – Importance of Marking


Most performers “mark” when they’re tired during rehearsals. Are they “not giving it their all” or are they getting quite a benefit from doing this? You’d be surprised at how beneficial marking can be. I talked about the psychology of dance in a previous episode but in this one I review the research on “marking”, a practice which many performers do.

If you’re not familiar with marking, here’s a definition from the authors of a recent study on how marking benefits dancers: “Marking involves enacting the sequence of movements with curtailed size and energy by diminishing the size of steps, height of jumps and leaps, and extension of limbs. The dancer often does not leave the floor and may even substitute hand gestures for certain steps.”

Dance and Psychology

    • Cognitive Load (wikipedia): “…the more a person attempts to learn in a shorter amount of time, the more difficult it is to process that information in working memory.”

“Although dancers, teachers, and choreographers intuitively know that marking during some portions of the rehearsal process is beneficial, the accepted explanation is that it saves energy. Our results suggest that dancers have in fact evolved a strategy that benefits them cognitively by **relieving cognitive load** and **supporting more efficient encoding and consolidation…Far from being a necessary evil in the rehearsal process, marking could be strategically used by teachers and choreographers…” – Warburton et. al (2013).

    • Bettina, B., Calvo-Merino, B., Cross, E. S., Jola, C., Honisch, J., & Stevens, C. J. (2012). Neurocognitive control in dance perception and performance. Acta Psychologica, 139, 300-308.
    • Chaffin, R., Lisboa, T., Logan, T., & Begosh, K. T. (2010). Preparing for memorized cello performance: The role of performance cues. Psychology of Music, 38, 3-30.
    • Hanrahan, C., & Vergeer, I. (2001). Multiple uses of mental imagery by professional modern dancers. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 20, 231-255.
    • Noice, T., & Noice, H. (2002). Very long-term recall and recognition of well-learned material. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 16, 259-272.
    • Nordin, S. M., & Cumming, J. (2005). Professional dancers describe their imagery: Where, when, what, why and how. The Sport Psychologist, 19, 395-416.
    • Wilson, M. (2002). Six views of embodied cognition. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 9, 625-636.



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