Impression and first impression...

February 1, 2011 at 09:48 PM ·

 on page 251, of Malcom Gladwell's book, 'Blink' under the chapter of  "listening with  your eyes" there is this passage:

"Some people look like they sound better than they actually sound, because they look confident and have good posture, " one musician, a veteran of many auditions, says.

"Other people look awful when they play but sound great.  Other people have that belabored look when they play, but you can't hear it in the sound.  There is always this dissonance  between what you see and hear.  The audition begins the first second the person is in view.  You think, Who is this nerd? Or, Who does this guy think he is?--just by the way they walk out with their instrument."

don't you find that amusing? :)   tell us your thoughts and experiences. 

Replies (26)

February 1, 2011 at 10:12 PM ·

I remember in an interview with Marlee Matlin where she was discussing going to American Idol with her daughter.  She said she could always predict who would win the competition or at least do very well, because she could tell just from how they handled themselves on stage how well they could sing.  It could be that their posture and confidence influenced the judges to thinking they were better than they were, though.  I wouldn't be surprised.  People have always listened with their eyes.

February 1, 2011 at 11:12 PM ·

 

Hello,

Gladwell is a brilliant interpreter of some most interesting psychology...

But his "blink" concept is based on some great social psychological research done by others, and knowing something of that work, I would suggest that it is incorrect to say that we "listen with our eyes."

The field upon which Glaswell built his ideas is called Attribution Theory, and it is the conceptual foundation of some really creative experiments.

The core idea is that we do not react to our perceptions...!

Instead, there is another process that occurs in an instant between our perceptions and our reactions. In that instant, we make sense of what we have perceived, and then we react to the sense we have made of the situation.

Of course things we see may contribute to that "sense making" but so do all our other senses.

All the best,

Lothar

February 1, 2011 at 11:24 PM ·

 lothar,,,he is not a psychologist, but a storyteller, so he is at liberty to play with words:)

but i  thought his line-- we listen with our eyes--captures something many of us can identify with, on many, many levels.  in that chapter he detailed many instances where with the advent of blind screened auditions, many female players made the cut, much to the dismay of some male pigs, often including the conductors.  in other words, stupid old white men almost had heart attacks when the screens were pulled.

meanwhile, your line--we don't react to our perceptions--is making me scratch my head and i just shampooed this morning.  care to explain?  communication doesn't need to be an art form.  just spill the beans.:)

lets try to follow the KISS principle if you will.  for example, many people used to think female players can only make feminine sound.  so if the conductor thinks so, i assume those who follow him will think alike.  so as a group, when they see serious female players, deep inside, they will consider the female players not as worthy colleagues.  so they indeed react to their perceptions.  no?

 

February 1, 2011 at 11:29 PM ·

All senses influence us ... but the eyes are overwhelming in a lot of cases.  Just in terms of bytes, they feed enormous amounts of data into the brain.  They and our own desire to be seen as worthy people by those around us influence probably define what we think of the things around us more than anything.  The latter is why double-blind tests are so important -- it cancels out for example our desire to be seen by those around us as perceptive, sensitive, and golden-eared by being able to detect the mystic perfection of an old violin, instead of just going on what it sounds like.

Probably our desire for status is the one thing that distorts our perceptions the most, now that I think about it ... although I still maintain that vision is overwhelming.  When I hear that "we don't react to our perceptions," I think of giving someone a bottle of Two Buck Chuck with the label washed off and replaced with one from a super-snooty French winery.  I guarantee you that most people will swoon over that wine, even if it tastes like nothing special.  And if you get a bottle from the French winery and glue a Gallo label on top, the people who claim to be the most perceptive and caring about wine will probably act like it's vinegar.  In that case, not only did people ignore what their tastebuds told them, but the ones that claim to have the most sensitive tastebuds are the most easily fooled.  That's how I read "we don't react to our perceptions" anyhow ...  We look at the label on the bottle, try to fit it into the image of ourselves that we want to project to others, and then promptly taste what we think will reinforce that image.

Someone on one of the online piano forums did this one time with MP3's of a DP and an acoustic.  As the proud and happy owner of a Clavinova DP, I found it hilarious.  All of these golden-eared experts were talking up how they could hear the "obvious digital artifacts" and "lack of tone color" in one of the MP3s, and were they ever ticked off when the guy said that he'd swapped the files, and the one that supposed stunk was a 6' Bosie.  Heh.

Some people are probably more susceptible to this, and most of us are more susceptible in certain situations than others ...  This is why music critics are so dismal at predicting what will be considered beloved and timeless 100 years into the future, but audiences are generally much better at it.

February 2, 2011 at 12:19 AM ·

 

Hello Al,

You wrote:

"lets try to follow the KISS principle if you will.  for example, many people used to think female players can only make feminine sound.  so if the conductor thinks so, i assume those who follow him will think alike.  so as a group, when they see serious female players, deep inside, they will consider the female players not as worthy colleagues.  so they indeed react to their perceptions.  no?"

And in a word, the answer is "no."

There is an intermediate step: We perceive things, we make instantaneous sense of what we have perceived, and then we react to the sense we have generated internally. You are not mentioning that intermediate step, and so you describe the situation as one in which people are reacting to their perceptions.

All the best,

Lothar

February 2, 2011 at 01:14 AM ·

lothar, in the blink of time, there is an intermediate step? :)   if a dinosaur is charging at me, i think i will freeze,,,like having zero steps.:)

but to go along with it:

"We perceive things, "  --we see female players, to go along with that example in the book.

"we make instantaneous sense of what we have perceived"--female players are not strong players.

," and then we react to the sense we have generated internally."--we'd better hire male players if we can.

i fail to see the role this intermediary step plays.  and i question if it exists:)

 

 

February 2, 2011 at 02:01 AM ·

 

Hello Al,

You wrote:

"lothar, in the blink of time, there is an intermediate step? :)   if a dinosaur is charging at me, i think i will freeze,,,like having zero steps.:)

but to go along with it:

"We perceive things, "  --we see female players, to go along with that example in the book.

"we make instantaneous sense of what we have perceived"--female players are not strong players.

," and then we react to the sense we have generated internally."--we'd better hire male players if we can.

i fail to see the role this intermediary step plays.  and i question if it exists:)"

 

We agree. You do fail to see the role that the intermediary step plays.

But, it is all too easy to confuse the desire to inform with the desire to convince..., and I have no investment in convincing you of anything.

I will mention that (during the Lincoln administration) when I studied Psychology, my reaction to the results pages of research studies was almost invariably a yawn. I often wondered if it would not have been easier to just watch folks to see how they behaved.

But then, I started to read the work of these Attribution Theorists, and I cannot easily express the wonderful surprises to be found on their experimental results. They were really discovering things that were quite new, and truly counter-intuitive.

By the way, your dinosaur example is just the sort of thing the Attribution Theorists were exploring.

They would argue, and their research strongly supports the notion, that were a dino charging you would freeze only had you first instantaneously attributed to the situation a sense of danger, and it is that attribution that causes you to freeze rather than your direct perception of the dino.

All the best,

Lothar

 

 

February 2, 2011 at 02:36 AM ·

lothar, thanks for your input.  i am not here begging to be convinced of anything (not even if you had training during lincoln adm).  i thought that since you begged to differ with blink's thesis and that you have a psychology background, you may find it interesting to inform readers on this forum with your viewpoints.  by "inform" i don't mean throwing terminology that others are not familiar with and leave them hanging.  it really does not take much to clearly explain things in a more understandable manner, especially when you brought up a theory that  is debatable even within psychology.

perhaps it is my misconception, but in the blink of the moment, i feel your ego:) 

so the dino may be actually cuddly and cute? that he is charging to get a hug?  is this what attribution theory people spend time on?   alright.  what if we are staring at the end of the barrel of a gun?  what does attribution theory come up with then?   that we are scared because we are assuming it is a real gun? :)

"just watch folks to see how they behaved."  will teach you so much more.

February 2, 2011 at 03:41 AM ·

I'm not  sure if this is related but I saw a  TV program some years ago in which an infant was placed on a glass floor such that you could see 8 feet down or so through the clear glass and the mother of the infant  positioned some distance away on the other side of the glass floor.  To the casual observer, it would look as if the child, were he to crawl across the clear floor, would be about to fall down below. When she beckoned with a smiling face to her child to crawl towards her, her child crawled across without a care. When the experiment was tried again and the child was about to walk across the clear glass floor, the mother showed alarm or fear on her face and the child stopped and did not cross.

 What do you make of that?

February 2, 2011 at 03:44 AM ·

 that love conquers fear:)

February 2, 2011 at 10:51 AM ·

 

Hello Al,

You wrote, in part:

"so the dino may be actually cuddly and cute? that he is charging to get a hug?  is this what attribution theory people spend time on?   alright.  what if we are staring at the end of the barrel of a gun?  what does attribution theory come up with then?   that we are scared because we are assuming it is a real gun? :)"

And yes, that is correct.

In the sense that I have tried to describe, it is not a gun, until that instantaneous moment of mental construction of meaning occurrs. If we were to make what you describe as "assumptions" the experience would be something like this:

Hmmm, what is that in his hand? It's dark in color. It's tubular. No, not exactly tubular - it has a handle. The handle is checkered. Perhaps for grip. He is smiling. Hmm, no. That more a grimace. Oh no. Bang.

Our perceptions provide far too much data for us to respond directly to them

For gun, of dino, such an approach would have implications for the survival of the species.

All the best,

Lothar

 

February 2, 2011 at 10:56 AM ·

Hello Ronald,

You wrote:

"

I'm not  sure if this is related but I saw a  TV program some years ago in which an infant was placed on a glass floor such that you could see 8 feet down or so through the clear glass and the mother of the infant  positioned some distance away on the other side of the glass floor.  To the casual observer, it would look as if the child, were he to crawl across the clear floor, would be about to fall down below. When she beckoned with a smiling face to her child to crawl towards her, her child crawled across without a care. When the experiment was tried again and the child was about to walk across the clear glass floor, the mother showed alarm or fear on her face and the child stopped and did not cross.

 What do you make of that?"

 

I make of it that the experimenters who developed that classic experiment understood Attribution Theory, and developed this very graphic example of its implication.

All the best,

Lothar

February 2, 2011 at 12:15 PM ·

 lothar, i call your use of this so called attribution theory extremist psychology.:)  

if we apply this theory to everyday life--when we are confronted with sudden signs of danger or fear,,such as driving along an icy road this morning for instance--we will face much more harms that can otherwise be avoided.   in other words, even you yourself will not subscribe to what you have submitted for survival.  a truck losing control heading your way is a truck losing control heading your way.  that is not "too much data."   but once back inside your zone of comfort and safety,  i bet your intellectual curiosity will itch you into reading more of this misapplication and misrepresentation. :)    

there is only so much thinking that one can do in a millisecond.  can't you just acknowledge that for once even though i suspect that is not your style?   the luxury of time is not there;  your 3 step mental dance takes time.   what you have proposed is neither practical nor scientific based on the logistics.  it is a theory with severe limitations.  perhaps it is indeed what it is,,,a theory.   you cannot force people into adopting and applying your theory to their activities.  if it does not fit, it does not fit.  if a theory has no practical implication so that people's life will be better off,,,what is the point here, really?   

ronald's story is drastically different from what the blink concept is about.  the baby does not need to make snap judgement.  if the baby decides to stay, fine.  if the baby decides to move, that is also fine because the glass is there to support her either way.  further, a baby may not be capable of thinking of an intermediary step, a must for you, even if there is ample time.  therefore, i question how you can consider ron's story a reflection of attribution theory.  it is like playing a well known violin piece and skipping 2 pages!:)

a more appropriate comparison will be that the glass is cracking open and a snap reaction is required.  

lothar, i am a open minded person and i am on this forum to learn, violin related or otherwise.  please understand that it is not personal when i consider your academic viewpoint  lacking.  particularly when you do not agree with what i have said, consider that process of disagreement  your continued education.   

 

February 2, 2011 at 01:30 PM ·

 

Hello Al,

Your efforts to bait aside...

Mine is not even remotely an acadelic viewpoint, but I do know the science.

If you are actually curious about the facts associated with this sort of thing, you might want to read some of the experiments. As I have said, their results are convincing, most surprising, and the science is very good.

If you prefer to stick with your assumptions about it, well, that's fine too...

All the best,

Lothar

February 2, 2011 at 01:34 PM ·

lothar, i did not question the outcomes of those experiments, nor the science of those experiments, nor how good they are.

i question whether it is fitting to apply the findings there to here, based on your explanations.

by the way, there are no "facts" in psychology, only findings.  whether people can interpret those findings correctly is what matters.   

i suspect our exchanges are not unlike what goes on in some violin classes. ahhh  :) 

 

February 2, 2011 at 01:42 PM ·

"Atribution Theory"?  I always read it as the "AS IF" principal.  Act "AS IF" you are - - - (fill in the blank) and it will give you confidence to just that.  I show dogs in obedience competition.  If I walk in the ring "AS IF" my dog is perfect and can do everything perfectly, I am able to get a better performance out of that dog.  They feed off of my body language so it had better be positive!  If I walk in the ring telling myslef that my dog can not heel - then that day it will be pretty obvious that he can't.  What you create for your mind to see is what it will make happen. 

Same with playing the violin.  If you believe you are a crappy player that can't hit a string without hitting the one next to it, can't land a G to save your life and have no control over your bow - then that's the kind of player you will be.  But if you have a strong mental imagine of how Joshua Bell plays (just pulling out a name) and you play "AS IF" you were him, then over time your mind will mimic the image you give it and your playing should improve.  Hmmmm.....think I just found one of my problems!

February 2, 2011 at 01:49 PM ·

 susan, perhaps having experiences dealing with nurturing a young dog to a show dog provides you with a different perspective, but what you have described is very true also in my experiences with kids except dogs listen.  i do not know what theory that falls into but that is not important.  what is important is what you have described,,,that this positive attitude and spirit is infectious.  

but one cannot fake it,,,because i think the dogs can sense it.  the positive mental picture must be developed over time through work and practice so that the confidence is real.

i wish more people pay more attention to this area because it deals with performance and violin playing to a large degree is about performance.

susan, have you ever seen my all time favorite bumper sticker:  everyday i aspire to be the person that my dog thinks i am? :)

February 2, 2011 at 02:06 PM ·

Susan,
 
I like your example about positive attitude but don't like the example you chose.  I would rather WATCH Anna Karkoska (sp?) but LISTEN to Joshua Bell -- two examples where what we see and what we hear don't seem to match

February 2, 2011 at 04:34 PM ·

Al, totally right...

Another topic linked with that could also be this:

I think that's not a coincidence if  almost no soloists are truely ugly or even just "ordinairy" nowadays?... In this era where the look is very important, people want to hear talent combined with great look or sometimes... great look with not that much talent will do the trick too.

Many of the great players of the 20th century would be totally rejected today.  Yes, they would have adapted themselves but would they have pass the "beauty test" ???  

 

 

Other topic linked with that:

In a masterclass with Vengerov I attended this year, it was interesting that he pointed out that many people compensate with their body when they are not able to do something.  Ex:  I want to do a creshendo but I can't so I'll add physical tension and body mouvment and everyone will think I'm actually doing a creshendo...

That also goes with what Friedman said about "now people want to think you work very hard when you are on stage..."  They don't want it to look easy.

 

 

To be conscious that what you see is not necessarely what you hear is a great thing to be aware of to be fair with everyone! 

Thanks, interesting book...

February 2, 2011 at 04:47 PM ·

Al, I love that sticker!!!

As for me:

Everyday, I aspire to be the player my mom thinks I am ; ) 

 

Well I should tell my grand-parents because my mom is no longer that innocent. 

That's the downside of sharing my discoveries with her "mom, come and listen to some Oistrakh videos with me!!!"  ; ) 

 

February 2, 2011 at 06:18 PM ·

Smiley - of course YOU would rather watch Anna Karkoska! ;-)  

February 2, 2011 at 06:36 PM ·

Hah. I suspect Smiley was referring to Joshua Bell's tendency to move around so much when playing.  Bothers some folks.  I'm okay with it when he does it, but I get it -- I was once put off by a young cellist (name withheld) whose movements were so over the top and "dramatic", her facial expressions so overwrought with emotion, that I simply had to close my eyes and listen to her actual playing, which was exemplary.

February 2, 2011 at 07:07 PM ·

 I think that Gladwell makes the point either later in that book or elsewhere that this listening with your eyes phenomenon is a good reason to hold auditions behind a screen. 

The American Idol comment is interesting--wasn't one of the reasons that people were so surprised that Susan Boyle could sing as well as she did that she didn't come across as confident or professional before she started singing?

February 2, 2011 at 07:42 PM ·

Smiley - of course YOU would rather watch Anna Karkoska! ;-)

Well, I didn't exactly mean it that way, but come to think of it, if she performed naked, it might take the edge off that horrid vibrato. :-)

@Sean,

Actually, it is not only the "over the top" movements, but it appears that J Bell plays with a lot of tension.  I personally find it hard to watch.  That said, I was listening to a recording of him playing Gershwin on my ride to work today, and he is an amazing violinist. 


February 2, 2011 at 08:32 PM ·

I've never noticed that myself, but if he does, I hope he doesn't hurt himself --- he's provided me with some truly memorable musical moments. 

I don't know if I  listen with my eyes...perhaps I do...but I do know that what i see with my eyes can interfere with what I'm hearing....like that cellist  I mentioned....and now I remember another wonderful violinist (a woman/famous) whose garish facial expressions make it impossible for me to listen to her and watch her at the same time. 

February 2, 2011 at 09:42 PM ·

and now I remember another wonderful violinist (a woman/famous) whose garish facial expressions make it impossible for me to listen to her and watch her at the same time.

I'm pretty sure I know who you are talking about and I agree.  I can't watch her either, but I'll listen all day long.

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