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Stage Fright

John Daly

Subject Psychology
Communication and Development » Instructional Communication

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Stage fright is the anxiety and nervousness people experience when delivering oral presentations. In the field of communication, stage fright has also been studied under a variety of rubrics including public speaking anxiety, reticence, and audience anxiety. It is one of the oldest topics that communication scholars have studied empirically ( Clevenger 1959 ), perhaps because it profoundly affects so many. In survey after survey of people's greatest fears, giving speeches always appears toward the top of the list. Given this, it is not surprising that stage fright is a popular topic in textbooks on public speaking. Speakers are not the only people who experience stage fright; musicians, actors, and dancers also often have it. The emphasis in this entry is on the stage fright experienced by speakers because that is where the bulk of communication scholarship is focused. Stage fright is conceptualized in two basic ways. The first is as a trait-like disposition – some people are more uncomfortable and nervous when talking to audiences than others. The second is as a response to particular situations – everyone gets nervous sometimes when they make speeches.   The majority of academic research on stage fright focuses on dispositional anxiety. It is important to distinguish the research on dispositional stage fright from a larger body of scholarship on communication apprehension. While ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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