What is “Affective Memory”?
The acting technique was abandoned by its originator, but lived on in one of his disciples.
(by Carmichael Philips)
Affective memory is one of the original techniques in Konstantin Stanislavski’s “System”. It later formed one of the central elements in Method Acting, “emotional recall”, as taught by Lee Strasberg. Affective Memory calls on the actor to recall emotions the actor felt under similar circumstances in the script and apply those emotions and feelings to the actor’s character.
For example, an actor’s character might have the emotion of deep, uncontrollable love toward another character in the script. This feeling, given how emotional and expressive it must be portrayed, may be difficult for an actor to produce.
To arrive at this emotion, the actor might recall the first time they fell in love with another person. Or the actor might conjure up deep attachments they had toward a family member who passed away. The actor might even recall emotions he or she had toward a pet from childhood that they loved deeply. Regardless, the actor recalls the sensation of the deep, intense love they felt in their personal lives and uses it to create a realistic character, living through those similar given circumstances.
While affective memory was created by Konstantin Stanislavski, he later abandoned the practice, believing it limited the actor’s imagination and even induced a kind of hysteria in some actors. In his later teachings he insisted that actors not dig for personal emotions and, instead, use their imaginations to live within the circumstances of the script. The technique lived on, however, in the teachings of Lee Strasberg.