Interesting Concepts: Cyranoids and the Cyranoid Illusion

Via BPS-digest in learned a new concept, the Cyranoid Illusion:

Imagine if the words that came out of your mouth were spoken by another person. Would anyone notice? This idea was explored by social psychologist Stanley Milgram, famous for his studies into obedience, but he never published his results. Milgram called the hybrid of one person’s body and another person’s mind, a Cyranoid, after the play Cyrano de Bergerac, in which the handsome Christian woos a woman using the graceful words provided by plain-looking Cyrano.

But some British researchers now did, and what happens when a grown up man is speaking the words of a woman or even a 12-year old boy? Would the public notice it? The study seems to suggest hardly:

Amazingly, the participants in the Cryanoid conditions were no more likely to say afterwards that they thought their interviewee had given scripted responses, spoken words relayed by radio, or wasn’t speaking his own thoughts. No participants raised any spontaneous suspicions about the interviewees’ autonomy during the interviews. And afterwards, when prompted directly, only one person out of 17 in each condition (two Cyranoid conditions and two normal) believed their interviewee’s answers had been fed to them.

I remember a class I took in college where every single lesson would be given by another guest-professor. After a few weeks the next guest was announced who would discuss living with low mental abilities. The class started, the man started giving his speech and it was not only after a half hour some students in the audience started to realize that the man in front of us wasn’t a professor but a person with a mental disability himself. Says a lot about how expectations influence our perceptions (and maybe also a lot about the other guest-professors).

Anyhow, this is the abstract of the new study by Corti and Gillespie:

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 generated by another via covert speech shadowing. The resulting hybrid persona can subsequently interact with third parties face-to-face. We show that naïve interlocutors perceive a cyranoid to be a unified, autonomously communicating person, evidence for a phenomenon Milgram termed the “cyranic illusion.” We also show that creating cyranoids composed of contrasting identities (a child speaking adult-generated words and 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 unique means of obtaining experimental control over inner and outer identities within social interactions rich in mundane realism.

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