Experiencing the Perspective of the Other: Stanley Milgrams Cyranic Method as a Means of Exploring Alternative Identities


Barriers to understanding and cooperation arise when we fail to take the perspective of the other people in our lives. But there are certain fundamental limits regarding the extent to which it is possible to take an alternative perspective or imagine someone else�s first-person point-of-view. As much as we can empathise with others on the basis of shared experiences, we only ever directly experience ourselves, and resort to the powers of the imagination in order to place ourselves (metaphorically) in somebody else�s shoes. Social psychologist Stanley Milgram, however, developed a clever means of accessing the first-person perspective of another social agent: the �cyranic method.� The technique entails constructing hybrid social agents (�cyranoids�) composed of the �mind� (a.k.a. the �source�) of one person and the �body� (a.k.a. the �shadower�) of another. Via an audio-vocal procedure known as speech shadowing, sources control the verbal communication of shadowers while interacting face-to-face with other agents in various social environments. Cyranic contraptions allow people to experience the same social context through a variety of differentiated external identities to gain better understanding as to the relationship between identity and social perception. I argue in the following paper that the cyranoid technique is particularly powerful as an experiential learning tool that enables research participants to creatively explore the first-person perspective of persons whose external identities differ from their own, and demonstrate how the method has been applied in a variety of laboratory contexts.

Author Information
Kevin Corti, London School of Economics, UK

Paper Information
Conference: NACP2014
Stream: Qualitative/Quantitative Research in any other area of Psychology

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