Omni Interview with Stanley Milgram
Posted Jul 06, 2007
Yes....that Stanley Milgram. Hated for all the wrong reasons, endlessly inventive and subversive -- Stanley Milgram is our kind of mutant. His infamous obedience experiment is what he's most known for, but as this article shows, it could actually be one of his least interesting experiments. Since it's a pdf, typing out excerpts is a bitch, but I'll do a quickie anyways -- then you can get on down to downloading this puppy. Enjoy.
We all have a ritualized way of communicating with one another, says Milgram. Many of these social conventions mask the real person. Style fogs substance. The Cyranoid provides one means of studying these masks, finding how permeable they are, and discovering where the mask ends and where the real person begins. And since Milgram believes that showing is better than telling, he clicks on a videotape.
The TV screen revealed an ordinary setting. Two students, a man and a woman, sat at a table, talking about the woman's proposal for a psychology project. She was an earnest young graduate student. So was the man. But he was also a Cyranoid, a repeater of words. Everything he said was being fed to him over a wireless electronic hookup inserted in his ear. The other end of the hookup was on the opposite side of a one-way mirror, where Milgram himself sat hunched in front of a microphone, watching and listening to the young people talk. He was talking to the woman through the Cyranoid.
He'd ask, for example, "And what was the purpose of this study?" and a split second later the Cyranoid in the next room would repeat those words, using his own voice and inflections. The woman never realized that the words coming out of the mouth of the man in front of her were being formed by another mind, and that she was in fact talking to someone she could neither see nor hear.
Things got more complicated. Milgram stepped away from the microphone, and another person took his place, continuing the conversation through the Cyranoid. The woman never noticed the difference. Then another person took the mike -- in the span of a few minutes, the woman spoke to three people.
"It's a way of testing person perception," he explains. "It would be interesting to see, for instance, wether or not anyone would notice if you had an 85 year old woman speaking through the body of a 15 year old boy. Or you could test prejudice. Put a black man in a white man's skin."
Filed in: Social Control
Previous Entry: 1980 Jaques Vallee Interview with Omni Magazine