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Developing the cyranoid method of mediated interpersonal communication in a social psychological context: applications in person perception, human-computer interaction, and first-person research

Corti, Kevin (2015) Developing the cyranoid method of mediated interpersonal communication in a social psychological context: applications in person perception, human-computer interaction, and first-person research. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis revisits Stanley Milgram’s “cyranoid method” of interactive social psychological experimentation (Milgram, 2010a) and explores the technique’s empirical potential in several domains. The central component of the method is speech shadowing, a procedure that involves a person (the shadower) repeating in real-time words they receive through an innerear monitor by-way-of radio-relay from a remote source. Speech shadowing effectively creates a hybrid agent (a “cyranoid”) composed of the body of one individual (the shadower) and the “mind” (or more precisely, the words) of another (the source). Interactants naïve to this manipulation perceive speech shadowers as autonomous communicators, and this perceptual bias (the “cyranic illusion”) affords researchers the ability to inspect the effects of separately altering the physical (outer) and dispositional (inner) elements of an interlocutor’s identity in contexts involving spontaneous and unscripted face-to-face dialog. Four articles and two additional chapters have been developed for this thesis. Chapter 1, “Introducing and situating the cyranoid method” presents an overview of the cyranoid method alongside an analysis of documents pertaining to the method contained in the Stanley Milgram Papers archive at Yale University and situates the method in the context of the demise of the classical paradigm, or “golden age,” of social psychology. Chapter 2 (Article 1), “Replicating Milgram” (published in the Journal of Social Psychology under the title “Revisiting Milgram’s cyranoid method: Experimenting with hybrid human agents”), examines the cyranic illusion through replications of two of Milgram’s original pilot studies and discusses the method’s potential as a means of conducting person perception. Chapter 3 (Article 2), “Echoborgs: Cyranoids with computer program sources” (published in Frontiers in Psychology under the title “A truly human interface: Interacting face-to-face with someone whose words are determined by a computer program”), expands upon the traditional cyranoid method by exploring situations wherein a conversational agent (a computer program designed to mimic a human interlocutor) sources for a human shadower, thereby producing a special type of cyranoid known as an “echoborg”; the article places the echoborg within the context of android science, a field that uses humanlike machines as stimuli in social psychological research in order to explore various aspects of human interaction (Ishiguro & Nishio, 2007). Chapter 4 (Article 3), “Using echoborgs to assess intersubjective effort in human-agent dialog” (accepted for publication pending minor revisions in Computers in Human Behavior), combines conversation analysis techniques (e.g., Schegloff, 1992, 1993) with the echoborg method to investigate factors that influence how people repair misunderstandings that arise during dialog with conversational agents. Chapter 5 (Article 4), “Cyranoids in first-person, self-experimental research” (published in Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science under the title “The researcher as experimental subject: Using self-experimentation to access experiences, understand social phenomena, and stimulate reflexivity”), explores the history of researcher-as-subject self-experimentation in social psychology and illustrates how the cyranoid method can be used as a first-person means of directly experiencing the consequences of a transformed social identity through systematic self-experimentation. Finally, Chapter 6, “Cyranoid ethics,” discusses the various ethical concerns involved in cyranoid research, outlines how they were mitigated in the current thesis, and offers suggestions for ensuring positive research participant experience. As Milgram died before publishing any work on the cyranoid method, and as speech shadowing has seen relatively little application in social psychological experimentation, this thesis attempts to provide the initial basis for future iterations and variants of the method.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2015 Kevin C. Corti
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Sets: Departments > Psychological and Behavioural Science
Supervisor: Gillespie, Alex

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