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Musical free improvisation (FI) is a technique or style of performance where conventional musical elements such as tonal centers, melodies, and harmonies are largely forsaken. Instead, FI concerns the unbound exploration and expression of sounds, timbres, textures, and rhythms as per the moment-to-moment desires of the performers. The main research presented in this dissertation centers around understanding the subjective experiences and cognitive dynamics of musicians engaged in this unplanned form of improvisation. This was achieved by asking participants to engage in musical free improvisations that were video-recorded for subsequent viewing and segmentation by the performers. These segmentations provided the framework from which the musicians provided text commentaries and engaged in in-depth discussions with me, the researcher. In a second, smaller project I then explored the impacts of applied improvisational training in a non-performance domain by developing and facilitating theatre-based business improvisation training sessions. With these two studies, I addressed the following questions: (1) what are the predominant themes that emerge as FI performers negotiate the cognitive and social-cognitive dynamics of FI? (2) what are the individual and interpersonal impacts of business improvisation training, and do the findings in this regard support and validate the many anecdotal reports given by others in this domain? (3) how do the cognitive and social-cognitive dynamics found in FI parallel and complement those found in theatre improvisation? and (4) how might the findings regarding free improvisation provide support for the inclusion of FI as a complementary or alternative training method to the more well-known area of applied theatre improvisation? Overall, my findings support two important insights: First, the musical FI findings reveal a novel way to understand how improvisers navigate their performances, as captured by four emergent themes that I ultimately discuss through the lens of enactive cognition. Second, the significance in examining the similarities and differences between the two improvisational domains lies in the potential for the application of musical FI in therapeutic settings where theatre improvisation training is more often used as a treatment intervention.
Culture anchors human behaviours, thoughts, and feelings. As with many psychological disciplines, sexuality research is beginning to recognize the influence of culture. The study of culture in sex research has predominantly taken the form of comparing ethnic groups. Such comparisons have revealed some interesting similarities and disparities between Asians and Westerners, with Asians appearing to be overall more conservative than their Western counterparts. While this field has accumulated some important information on how the East and West compare with respect to sexuality, it is not without considerable shortcomings. This dissertation addresses three such limitations. In Study 1, the common practice of merging individuals from different Asian ethnicities into one participant group was evaluated by comparing Japanese-, Korean- and Chinese-Canadian women on their sexual functioning. The results challenge the assumption of Asian sexual homogeneity by demonstrating that Japanese-, Chinese- and Korean-Canadian women differ with respect to sexual functioning. Study 2 was designed to ameliorate the overreliance on self-report measures in cross-cultural research by measuring sexual attitudes using the Implicit Association Test in addition to subjective measures. Both methods found the well documented trend of Chinese individuals endorsing more negative sexual attitudes, lending confidence that this is a genuine ethnocultural difference, rather than a product of response bias. Integrating the fields of sex research and relationship science, Study 3 is the first to examine the derogation effect in a non-Western culture and whether this relationshipmaintenance mechanism is influenced by sexual arousal. Surprisingly, the derogation effectwas not replicated in Chinese men, Chinese women, or European women. Contrary to previous reports, European men were found to exhibit a reverse derogation effect, where those in relationships were more likely to find opposite-sex individuals attractive, compared to their single counterparts. Moreover, sexual arousal was observed to increase the attractiveness of opposite-sex others to single individuals, but not those in relationships, revealing a relationship maintenance mechanism that has not previously been identified. This series of studies has important clinical and research implications, not only for furthering our understanding of Asian sexuality, but also for improving the practice of examining the role of culture in sexuality.