On “The Great Dictator”
5 hours ago
This is the former location of the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The blog is now located at http://utteracting.com/blog. This old location has been left in place as an archive.
...particularization: the making of each event, each person, and each place down to the smallest physical object as particular as possible, exploring these things in detail to discover in which way they are relevant to the character, in which way they are perceived, in which way they further or hinder the character's needs, and consequently, how they will condition "your" behavior.
In the first experiment 34 participants were divided into 3 groups with each group unconsciously cued into a different state: one 'rude', one 'polite' and one neither. This had to be done in a roundabout way so that the participants didn't suspect they were being manipulated. What the experimenters did was give them a word puzzle to unscramble. To activate the idea of rudeness in one group it contained words like 'bother', 'disturb' and 'bold'. To activate the idea of politeness the next group unscrambled words like 'courteous', 'patiently' and 'behaved'. The third group unscrambled neutral words.
After finishing the unscrambling participants left the room to track down the experimenter but found him deep in conversation with someone, forcing them to wait. The question the researchers wanted to answer was what percentage of people would interrupt if the experimenter kept ignoring them by talking to the other person for 10 minutes.
In the group cued with polite words, just 18% of participants interrupted with the rest waiting for the full 10 minutes while the experimenter continued their conversation. On the other hand, in the group cued with impolite words, fully 64% interrupted the experimenter. The neutral condition fell between the two with 36% interrupting.
This is quite a dramatic effect because participants were unaware of the manipulation yet they faithfully followed the unconscious cues given to them by the experimenters. One group became bold and forthright simply by reading 15 words that activated the concept of impoliteness in their minds, while the other group became meek and patient by reading words about restraint and conformity.
What this study demonstrates very neatly is just how sensitive we are to the minutiae of social interactions. Subtle cues from the way other people behave and more generally from the environment can cue automatic unconscious changes in our behaviour. And by the same token signals we send out to others can automatically activate stereotypes in their minds which are then acted out. As much as we might prefer otherwise, sometimes stereotypes can easily influence our behaviour and our conscious mind seems to have no say.
Habit is a compromise effected between the individual and his environment, or between the individual and his own organic eccentricities, the guarantee of a dull inviolability, the lightning-conductor of his existence. Habit is the ballast that chains the dog to his vomit.
Says Scorsese in the article, "There’s no doubt that working with Leo—he’s been an inspiration for me."