Liesbeth Wildschut engages in both theoretical and empirical points of view, and focuses on kinesthetic empathy. An audience watching movement feels the spontaneous urge to imitate, which in turn leads to specific kinaesthetic sensations evoking emotions linked to those movements. The aim of her research is to obtain further insight into this process using empathy theories focusing on imitation of movement, research results from study of non-verbal communication, dance therapy research and neuroscience research. Liesbeth carried out empirical research among 391 children who had watched an abstract or narrative dance performance and collected experiences of kinaesthetic empathy from 40 dance experts.

Current research questions focus on how performance characteristics stimulate kinaesthetic empathy; the similarities and differences between felt and/or visible movements of spectators and perceived movements; questions about motor memory; and the role of attitude and attention of the spectator. In collaboration with the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour she is preparing a research about brain activity of experienced choreographers watching dance while lying in a scanner. Other research interests include dance education and dance dramaturgy.

Sigrid Braam made a little documentary about empathic kinesthesia, one of Liesbeth’s research subjects. This video can be found here.