Engineer & Entertain

Ideas I grapple with

Always the et al, never the PI

I received this in my inbox; it regards a game played at Purdue Improv Club meetings called Continous Story.  My favorite part of the article is when it states, "subjects were led to believe they were attending a meeting of an organization called the "Purdue Improv Club", but were not made aware of the deception and the true nature of the experiment afterwards".  That was a pretty elaborate ruse just to provide anecdotal evidence that collabrotive stories do not work.  Some links havebeen added.

Prof. Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire conducted an
experiment on his blog wherein commenters contributed to a story, one
sentence at a time.  The catch was that men and women contributed to
separate stories, although both stories began with the same opening
line.

The results:
Men: http://richardwiseman.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/the-mens-story/
Women: http://richardwiseman.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/the-womens-story/

Prof. Wiseman’s commentary on the results is at
http://richardwiseman.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/clowns-talking-cats-and-the-mysterious-dolores/

The men’s story quickly veers into borderline incoherence as
contributors keep throwing stuff in with little regard to the narrative
thus far.  The women’s story stays cohesive longer before losing control
and resorting to the despicable all-just-a-dream-or-is-it ending.
(Whereas the men introduced all-just-a-dream in the middle and kept
going anyway, ultimate ending in a self-referential charlie foxtrot.)

Prof. Wiseman’s findings are independent replication of earlier
experiments by Kuliniewicz et al, Purdue University, where repeated
attempts at forming such collaborative narratives were made weekly.  In
those experiments, the results almost invariably fell within the
"borderline incoherence" category, and the experimental population was
overwhelming (90%+) male.

[Alas, the findings of Kuliniewicz et al remained unpublished, due to
failure to follow proper experimental protocol with human subjects:
subjects were led to believe they were attending a meeting of an
organization called the "Purdue Improv Club", but were not made aware of
the deception and the true nature of the experiment afterwards.  Also,
there was a failure to establish a proper control group.]

Clearly, this is Prof. Wiseman’s most significant work in psychology
since his infamous color-changing card trick:

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