Signs of Life: Puppetry, Emotions, Embodiment and Empathy

Friday 20th October, 2017

14.00-17.30, SCR, Arts Two Building, QMUL (Mile End)

A panel discussion with Mervyn Millar, Emily Cross, Matthew Longo, Susanne Quadflieg and Joel Smith

Chaired by Tiffany Watt Smith, QMUL.

What role can puppetry play in unravelling the psychology of empathy and our ability to read each other’s emotions? How is it that we can we so easily feel apparently real emotions when watching bodies that are not even flesh and blood? Do we react differently to puppets, robots, avatars and people? And can we ever really ‘suspend disbelief’?

Puppet designer and director Mervyn Millar has been Leverhulme Trust Artist in Residence at QMUL’s Centre for the History of Emotions during 2017.  He will discuss these themes and related phenomena with academic researchers from a variety of fields: Prof Emily Cross (School of Psychology, Bangor University), Prof Matthew Longo (Cognitive Neuroscience ‘Bodylab’, Birkbeck University of London), Dr Susanne Quadflieg (Senior Lecturer in Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol), Dr Joel Smith (Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Manchester) and some puppeteers will all contribute to round table discussions and debate. Chaired by Dr Tiffany Watt-Smith (Centre for the History of Emotions, QMUL). This event is funded by the Leverhulme Trust.


14.00 Welcome and introductions from the speakers

14.30 – 15.30  Discussion led by Tiffany Watt Smith, inviting cross-talk from the participants and including puppetry performances

15.30-16.00 tea and coffee break

16.00-16.50 Discussion and puppetry

16.50 Questions and Wine Reception

17.30 Finish

Attendance is free but limited: please email Helen Stark ( by 16 October for a place. This event will be recorded.