Dance psychology

Led by Dr Peter Lovatt, well known as ‘Dr Dance’.

Dance Psychology is the study of dance and dancers from a psychological, scientific, perspective.

The Dance Psychology Lab at the University of Hertfordshire was set up in 2008 as a place to bring together academics from a broad range of disciplines, and as a place to carry out scientific research, in order to further our understanding of the psychology of dance and dancers. The lab has several research themes.

Dance for people with Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative condition which leads to a range of physical and cognitive symptoms such as, poor balance, physical tremors, slowness of movement, depression, anxiety and a reduction in divergent thinking. Research has shown that when people with Parkinson’s engage in recreational dance some symptoms become significantly improved. In an attempt to understand what it is about “dancing” that leads to such improvements we are examining the impact of different types of movements, physical activity levels, social engagement, music, mood and rhythm and timing on different symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Our 2016 paper: “Mood changes following social dance sessions in people with Parkinson's disease.” Now forms part of the OCR A level Psychology syllabus.

To help us collect a large amount of data from outside of laboratory we have partnered with Qualtrics to develop a new data collection platform, called Tap-a-Tempo. This partnership has significantly changed our understanding of the rhythm and timing characteristics of people with Parkinson’s and as Tap-a-Tempo is developed further it will give us important insight in to how rhythm and timing abilities of people with Parkinson’s change as the condition progresses.

Read more about dance for people with Parkinson's.

Thinking and problem-solving

We have found that the way people move their body has an impact on their ability to think and solve problems. For example, we have observed enhanced divergent thinking following a short period of improvised movement. This has implications across a wide range of settings, for example, in education, corporate trouble-shooting, creativity and for people with Parkinson’s.

Self-esteem and dance confidence

We have collected a large amount of data on self-esteem and dance confidence. We are interested to understand how the self-esteem of vocational dancers differs to that of non-dancers and how dance-related self-esteem, or dance confidence, changes across the lifespan.