From: Mike Cole (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Fri Feb 22 2002 - 09:33:48 PST
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Perhaps the finest book written by AR Luria in his long career was called,
in English, *The nature of human conflicts*. In it, ARL described a method
he called the comibned motor method, which has interesting relations to
the method of dual stimulation that surface many years later.
In the combined motor method, a person is asked to engage simultaneously
in several kinds of actions which are to be coordinated. The actions might
be holding one hand steady, pressing a button with the other hand every
a word stimulus is presented, and perhaps responding verbally as well.
This method sets up a system of interpersonal coordination between what
has come to be called the "subject" (who is the object of the
activity) and the experimenter. It takes a while for the subject to master
the coordination, which might begin with the prnounciation of a set of
words or with pure tones that are then substituted for by words.
When the system of coordination is stable, the experimenter introduces
"critical" words that relate to some hypothetical event in the subject'
s prior experience. Examples include subjects hypnotized and told not
to reveal the story they had just been told, suspected criminals, and
college students from wealthy families who wanted entrance to Moscow
University at a time of proletarian purging of such people.
Luria argued that one can know what another is thinking under the condition
that one sets up such a system of coordination and then is able to
SELECTIVELY disrupt it by prsenting critical words which are just those
words that the subject does not want the experimenter to know about.
Hence, selective discoordination becomes a window into, precisely, what
another person is thinking (assume precision in knowledge of the universe
of possibile bits of knowledge involved and of measurement-- both very
One does not need a fancy apparatus to see this mechanism at work. I see
and have recorded many examples from undergraduates playing computer
games with kids where they are highly coordinated (a condition very much
like Czikhzentmihaly's (swp?) FLOW) and then something occurs which
indicates that one or the other has misunderstood the other in a very
The most public example of this I have experienced was a few years ago
when I showed a class an antiapartheid MTV song called "Sun City." In
the film, there is a very repetitive refrain, "I ain't gonna play Sun
City" which referred to a boycott of a white's only spa in South
Africa. Repeatedly in the film, this refrain was accompanied by a
marching mix-ethnicity crowd walking up a street and coming over the
horizon into view in synch with the music.
Then, at one point, Bruce Springsteen appears in the group of marchers
and at the sight of him, a class of 200 students burst into laughter
simultaneously. They had been quiet up to that point and were quiet
afterward until discussion time. Then they articulated their surprise
at Springsteen appearing. He was not the only musician they recognized
in the waves of marchers. But there was something incongruous to them.,
collectively and individually, about his experience which they could
then talk about.
And, most important, when the laughter occurred, all felt that they knew
why the others were laughing just at the moment when they laughed.
Make of it what you will. I take this to be an example of selective
discoordination that reveals something about others' thought processes.
Laughter is not the only such expression, of course. Surprise, chagrin,
horror, etc. can all be evoked, and maybe even conceptual change.
The discussion of Psychology and the Actor's Creative Work reminded me of
the previous post from Mike Cole. The combined motor method is an
extremelye effective teaching tool that can sometimes be coordinated in
team teaching situations where the subject matter is difficult for high
school age students to discuss (i.e. sex, home life, peer pressure). We do
not call it the combined motor method but essentially that is what it is.
A worksheet is passed out for students to work on. Anything simple and
easy to understand will work. One teacher will take the "lecture position"
and the other will be in the class seated where the students are. Before
the lesson is too far on the seated teacher will interrupt the lecture.
Usually it has to be an interruption that is "over the top" and will get
the students to be surprised. Once this reaction is received the class
turns into a give and take discussion that in all my time of practicing has
always been well received and beneficial. Some time I will try to record
this dialogue and provide a more concrete example.
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