Revisiting Milgram's Cyranoid Method: Experimenting With Hybrid Human Agents

In two studies based on Stanley Milgram’s original pilots, we present the first systematic examination of cyranoids as social psychological research tools. A cyranoid is created by cooperatively joining in real-time the body of one person with speech
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  This article was downloaded by: []On: 31 January 2015, At: 23:52Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Click for updates The Journal of Social Psychology Publication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information: Revisiting Milgram’s Cyranoid Method:Experimenting With Hybrid HumanAgents Kevin Corti a  & Alex Gillespie aa  London School of EconomicsAccepted author version posted online: 03 Sep 2014.Publishedonline: 04 Nov 2014. To cite this article:  Kevin Corti & Alex Gillespie (2015) Revisiting Milgram’s Cyranoid Method:Experimenting With Hybrid Human Agents, The Journal of Social Psychology, 155:1, 30-56, DOI:10.1080/00224545.2014.959885 To link to this article: PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the “Content”) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arisingout of the use of the Content.This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &   Conditions of access and use can be found at    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   9   0 .   1   9   2 .   1   0   2 .   7   4   ]  a   t   2   3  :   5   2   3   1   J  a  n  u  a  r  y   2   0   1   5  The Journal of Social Psychology , 155: 30–56, 2015Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLCISSN: 0022-4545 print / 1940-1183 onlineDOI: 10.1080/00224545.2014.959885 Revisiting Milgram’s Cyranoid Method: ExperimentingWith Hybrid Human Agents KEVIN CORTIALEX GILLESPIE  London School of Economics ABSTRACT. In two studies based on Stanley Milgram’s srcinal pilots, we present the first sys-tematic examination of cyranoids as social psychological research tools. A cyranoid is created bycooperatively joining in real-time the body of one person with speech generated by another viacovert speech shadowing. The resulting hybrid persona can subsequently interact with third partiesface-to-face. We show that naïve interlocutors perceive a cyranoid to be a unified, autonomously com-municating person, evidence for a phenomenon Milgram termed the “cyranic illusion.” We also showthat creating cyranoids composed of contrasting identities (a child speaking adult-generated wordsand vice versa) can be used to study how stereotyping and person perception are mediated by inner(dispositional) vs. outer (physical) identity. Our results establish the cyranoid method as a uniquemeans of obtaining experimental control over inner and outer identities within social interactions richin mundane realism.Keywords: cyranoid, embodiment, Milgram, mundane realism, person perception, stereotyping IN EDMUND ROSTAND’S PLAY  CYRANO DE BERGERAC  , Christian, a handsome yet inar-ticulate young cadet, woos the love of Roxane by speaking to her the graceful prose of Cyrano,a man whose unremarkable physical features instil in him a paralyzing sense of self-doubt(Rostand, 1981). Through Christian’s body, Cyrano achieves a means of vicariously fulfillinghis unrequited love for Roxane, while Christian is in turn the beneficiary of ghost-written wordsthat garner affection. This well-known story is but one of the many examples of a fantasy that hasappeared in the arts and mythology throughout history—that of the fusion of separate bodies andminds. Other illustrations include  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,  in part the tale of a fraudster whois able to attain great power by presenting himself to the world through an intimidating artificialvisage. The film  Big  entertains the folly that ensues when an adolescent boy awakens to find him-self in the body of a middle-aged man. More recently, films such as  Avatar   and  Surrogates  haveimagined hypothetical futures in which mind can be operationally detached from body, allowingindividuals to operate outer personae constructed to suit their social goals. Fiction though theymay be, these stories illuminate the power façade has over how we are perceived by ourselvesand by others, and how we and others in turn behave in accordance with these perceptions.  Address correspondence to Kevin Corti, London School of Economics, Department of Social Psychology, STC  Building, Room S.302, Houghton St., Westminster WC2A 2AE, UK. E-mail:     D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   9   0 .   1   9   2 .   1   0   2 .   7   4   ]  a   t   2   3  :   5   2   3   1   J  a  n  u  a  r  y   2   0   1   5  CORTI AND GILLESPIE  31 Stanley Milgram, perhaps best known for his obedience to authority experiments (Milgram,1974), operationalized the  Cyrano de Bergerac  paradigm in a series of pilot studies conductedshortly before his death. In these pilots, he explored constructing hybrid social agents, whom hecalled “cyranoids” (in reference to Cyrano), via a vocal technique known as “speech shadow-ing,” a procedure in which a person immediately repeats auditory stimuli srcinating elsewhere.Milgram’s idea was to have one person (the “shadower”) replicate the spontaneous speech of another (the “source”) via a covert audio-relay apparatus while socially engaging with researchsubjects (the “ineractants”) naïve to the subterfuge, and his findings suggest that interactantswill fail to detect that their interlocutor is a cyranoid. This “cyranic illusion” persisted in casesof extreme identity incongruity between source and shadower, such as when he sourced for childshadowers being interviewed by groups of teachers, none of whom believed following these inter-actions that they had been talking to anything other than an autonomous (albeit unusually bright)child. Milgram never formally reported the results of these studies, though descriptions of themcan be found in a speech he prepared for an American Psychological Association (APA) conven-tion in 1984 (Milgram, 1992) as well as in a biography authored by Blass (2004). In his APA speech, he expressed optimism that the cyranoid method could evolve into a powerful means of researching the social self and person perception. Despite this enthusiasm, no experimental val-idation of the method has to-date been reported, rendering cyranoids a largely dormant part of Milgram’s legacy.Our goal in the present work is to resurrect the cyranoid method by exhibiting its utility as asocial psychological research tool. In two studies based on Milgram’s srcinal pilots, we examinethe robustness of the cyranic illusion and demonstrate how with the method one can explorevarious aspects of person perception and the role of stereotypes in social behavior. The aim isto stimulate further research into the wide range of social and cognitive phenomena that lendthemselves to investigation by-way-of cyranoids. BACKGROUNDSpeech Shadowing A functioning cyranoid is a synchronized performance between two or more people and dependsupon the shadower reliably and rapidly repeating the words of their source without revealing thetrue nature of the communication to interactants. This, however, is not as difficult a task as onemight suspect, as studies have shown speech shadowing to be a surprisingly simple undertaking.Marslen-Wilson’s (1973) early work exploring speech shadowing latencies influenced Milgram’sconceptualization of the cyranoid, and the technique has since been used to investigate phenom-ena ranging from secondary language acquisition (e.g., Murphey, 2001) to speech pathology (e.g.,Harbison, Porter, & Tobey, 1989; Healey & Howe, 1987) to cognitive linguistic processing (e.g., Fowler, Brown, Sabadini, & Weihing, 2003). Native language shadowers can track the continuous familiar prose of a source at latencies as low as 70 milliseconds (Bailly, 2003), and continuousunfamiliar prose at latencies as low as 250 milliseconds (Marslen-Wilson, 1985). Shadowerstend to reflexively mimic gestural elements of their source (Fowler et al., 2003; Goldinger, 1998; Mitterer & Ernestus, 2008; Shockley, Sabadini, & Fowler, 2004), while listeners tend to perceive more acoustic-phonetic similarity between persons A and B when A is shadowing for B than    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   9   0 .   1   9   2 .   1   0   2 .   7   4   ]  a   t   2   3  :   5   2   3   1   J  a  n  u  a  r  y   2   0   1   5  32  THE JOURNAL OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY when A is speaking non-shadowed speech (Namy, Nygaard, & Sauerteig, 2002; Pardo, Jordan, Mallari, Scanlon, & Lewandowski, 2013), evidence for a phenomenon known as “phonetic con- vergence.” Thus, in addition to replicating pure syntax at low-latency, shadowers instinctivelymirror their sources’ idiosyncratic speech qualities.Schwitzgebel and Taylor (1980) explored speech shadowing as a social psychological exper- imental tool when investigating aspects of third party impression formation. Their shadowerswere able to effectively convey both verbal and nonverbal cues necessary for positive impres-sion formation while replicating the words of others. While experimental stimuli in these studieswere short videos of shadowers, the authors do report piloting the shadowing procedure  in vivo .Milgram (1992) referenced Schwitzgebel and Taylor’s study as an example of how speech shad- owing could be used in social experimentation, but his ambition was to employ the method ininteractive settings where research subjects freely dialogued with shadowers face-to-face. Milgram’s Pilot Studies In the first pilot described in his APA speech, Milgram (1992) reports having 20 naïve partic- ipants engage in one-on-one conversations with various adult cyranoids for whom he sourced,and following these interactions no participant agreed with a questionnaire item suggesting thattheir interlocutor had been merely repeating messages received via radio. Upon learning the truenature of these interactions, some participants “felt the loss of a person,” having had quite anengaging experience with their interlocutor, who, as it turned out, was merely a “synthetic cre-ation of the experimental procedure and had no existence apart from the hybridization whichthe experiment created” (Milgram, 1992, p. 340). Notably lacking from this study were control groups (specifically, non-cyranoid dyads) capturing participants’ baseline experiences with theshadowers.Milgram suspected that interactants would still be inclined to see a cyranoid as autonomouseven in cases where a source and shadower were quite dissimilar from one another. Accordingly,he tested the robustness of the cyranic illusion by conducting the aforementioned interview-panelstudy wherein he separately sourced for 11- and 12-year-old shadowers while being interrogatedby groups of teachers. The teachers were asked to assess their interviewee’s intelligence duringthe interviews, so in effect were unknowingly evaluating a child producing the words of a univer-sity professor. Rather than provide a systematic analysis of these interactions, however, Milgramreports select anecdotes from teachers’ post-interview written evaluations highlighting how thedeception went undetected despite the conversations being very incongruous. Cyranoids After Milgram Despite being largely ignored within the scientific community, the cyranic technique has recentlybeen picked up by artists who have used cyranoids as parts of social installations within whichparticipants experience breaches of social norms (Mitchell, Gillespie, & O’Neill, 2011; Pawlak,2009) and that create conditions under which people unknowingly encounter familiar others (e.g.,friends and spouses) through the bodies of strangers (Mitchell, 2009). The cyranoid has also beenused as a metaphorical device within societal and media analysis to describe public perception of highly visible social actors (e.g., the movie star, the news anchor, the politician, etc.), whose rela-tionships with the masses are often mere performance and whose messages are often carefully    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   9   0 .   1   9   2 .   1   0   2 .   7   4   ]  a   t   2   3  :   5   2   3   1   J  a  n  u  a  r  y   2   0   1   5
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