Friday, May 10, 2013

The illusion of skill

I came across this video on Boing Boing earlier this afternoon.


This video got me thinking about an article I read a while back: Eight New Things We've Learned About Music. The article asks an interesting question:

"Why should a collection of sounds cause the brain to reward itself?"

There isn't a definite answer to this question, but, as the article explains, the most likely answer was proposed almost 60 years ago by a guy named Leonard B. Meyer:

"Music sets up patterns that causes us to predict what will come next and when we’re right, we get a reward. Some have suggested this has its roots in primitive times when guessing wrong about animal sounds was a matter of life or death. What was needed was a quick emotional response to save our skin, rather than taking a time to think things through."

It blows my mind that human beings just can't help but have an emotional reaction to things that can be so stupid. It's embarrassing to be wired this way. I mean, really, does anyone really want to admit to liking most things that are popular in pop culture?

I don't want to. But the truth is, I constantly subject myself to music and movies and activities that I tell people I don't like--things that I truly believe have no redeeming value. I've laughed at commercials for products I hate. I've dropped money into loud machines with bright flashing lights knowing full well that it wasn't a smart idea.

I consume things I hate. All the time. I can't help myself.

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