When it comes to music people really do hear what they see

Wednesday, 28 August, 2013

“People hear what they see”, as Bobby Darin – or at least Kevin Spacey, on his behalf – said during Beyond the Sea, the 2004 Spacey directed biopic of the life of the late US singer and actor.

As it turns out Darin may have been onto something, certainly when it comes to music competitions that is, after a recent study found that winners, and presumably those with talent, were picked out based how their performances looked, rather than sounded:

In a study by Chia-Jung Tsay, who last year earned a Ph.D. in organizational behavior with a secondary Ph.D. field in music, nearly all participants – including highly trained musicians – were better able to identify the winners of competitions by watching silent video clips than by listening to audio recordings. The work was described in a paper published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “It’s a very counterintuitive finding – there have been some interesting reactions from musicians,” Tsay said. “What this suggests is that there may be a way that visual information is prioritized over information from other modalities. In this case, it suggests that the visual trumps the audio, even in a setting where audio information should matter much more.”

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What we see is sometimes a case of mind over matter

Tuesday, 19 February, 2013

I’m not sure if this is good news or bad, but seeing things, as in things that aren’t actually there to see, is quite normal. That’s if what I saw of the article was in fact there and not a figment of my imagination:

There has been a lot of research over the years on perceptions that never reach awareness. For example, people whose visual cortex is damaged are unaware of seeing anything, yet they often react to things in their field of vision. Sergent et al.’s study is significant because it’s not about these kinds of perceptions outside of consciousness. Instead, it’s a demonstration that the mind can edit perceptions before they reach consciousness.

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Most of what we see when looking at art is not seen by the eye

Tuesday, 20 December, 2011

I’ve never given much thought to how exactly I observe the artworks I look at, but it seems our perceptions in this regard are shaped by far more than what is simply before our eyes.

We want to believe that pleasure is simple, that our delight in a fine painting or bottle of wine is due entirely to the thing itself. But that’s not the way reality works. Whenever we experience anything, that experience is shaped by factors and beliefs that are not visible on the canvas or present in the glass. Even the most exquisite works in the world – and what is more exceptional than a Rembrandt portrait? – still require a little mental help. We only see the beauty because we are looking for it.

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The battle of the senses, when you see no evil but still hear it

Monday, 19 December, 2011

While it has always been assumed that our perception senses, sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch for instance, work in collaboration to keep us as fully in the picture as possible, there is evidence they may actually be competing for dominance:

One study published in 2000 particularly grabbed people’s attention: When researchers at Caltech showed test subjects a brief flash of light accompanied by two quick tones, many people saw two flashes instead of one. The same effect occurred when the researchers tapped their subjects’ skin twice as the light flashed. Vision – considered our most reliable and dominant sense – could be altered by sound or touch.

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When making important judgements do not lean to the left

Friday, 16 December, 2011

Researchers at the Erasmus University Rotterdam have found that people’s perceptions are more likely to be skewed if they somehow happen to be leaning to the left while they are evaluating information, often resulting in them underestimating whatever they are assessing.

A third of the questions were asked while the volunteers were perfectly upright. The rest of the questions were asked when – unbeknownst to the volunteers – the board was altered so that it would give a “perfectly balanced” readout only if volunteers tilted slightly to either the left or right.

Be sure and sit up straight while crunching numbers, ok?

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Always in motion are our memories of past events

Tuesday, 27 September, 2011

Not only does our consciousness perceive happenings ever so slightly after they take place, meaning we’re all actually living in the past rather than the present, our memories of past events are effectively a compilation of prior recollections of said past event, meaning we forget what precisely happened as time passes.

It’s not that our memory is a glitchy wetware version of computer flash memory; it’s that the computer metaphor just doesn’t apply. Roediger said we store only bits and pieces of what happened – a smattering of impressions we weave together into feels like a seamless narrative. When we retrieve a memory, we also rewrite it, so that the time next we go to remember it, we don’t retrieve the original memory but the last one we recollected. So, each time we tell a story, we embellish it, while remaining genuinely convinced of the veracity of our memories.

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Use your illusions, we have more than five senses

Tuesday, 25 January, 2011

Barry Smith, a University of London philosopher, challenges the traditional and entrenched notion we have just five senses, at the least add to the list balance and acceleration, temperature, kinesthetic sense, pain, and direction.

For far too long we have laboured under a faulty conception of the senses. Ask anyone you know how many senses we have and they will probably say five; unless they start talking to you about a sixth sense. But why pick five? What of the sense of balance provided by the vestibular system, telling you whether you are going up or down in a lift, forwards or backwards on a train, or side to side on a boat? What about proprioception that gives you a firm sense of where your limbs are when you close your eyes? What about feeling pain, hot and cold? Are these just part of touch, like feeling velvet or silk? And why think of sensory experiences like seeing, hearing, tasting, touching and smelling as being produced by a single sense?

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Relax, it’s not as bad, or good, as it usually looks

Thursday, 16 September, 2010

The way we see ourselves, others, and our predicaments, compared to the way things actually are.

Sometimes reassuring…

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My life online is – mostly – as real here as it is anywhere else

Thursday, 29 July, 2010

The term “in real life” – or IRL – has always bothered me – personally I prefer say I’m either online or offline (where real/reality is seldom a part of either domain…) – but I really cannot fathom how online activity is any less “real” than what we do offline.

If we still refer to the offline world as “real life,” it’s only a sign of deep denial – or unwarranted shame – about what reality looks like in the 21st century. The Internet’s impact on our daily lives, experiences and relationships is real. Our world is deeply affected by networks. From the moment you wake up to news that was gathered online to the minute you fall asleep listening to a podcast, the Internet shapes how you experience the world around you. From the lunch date you make with your BFF (“r u free 4 lunch 2day?”) to the colleagues your company recruited online, the Internet shapes who you interact with. And from the boss who fills you in on a Twitter rumor to the kid who fills you in on her Facebook activities, the Internet shapes how you interact with them.

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Retronauts travel through time without leaving the room

Friday, 23 April, 2010

A retronaut is a time traveller who effectively imagines they belong to another age in order to move through time.

A Retronaut is someone who goes back in time using just perception. Its a trick they pull on themselves, a psychological ruse. But – it works.

I wonder if the “time traveller” I referred to yesterday is a also retronaut?

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