Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jackie Treehorn, Strawberry Jam and Inception

"People forget that the brain is the largest erogenous zone."--Jackie Treehorn
"On you maybe."--The Dude

What's your favorite beer?

Now, rethink your answer. Judge the beer on appearance, texture, head, packaging. Give me a logical answer before you respond again. Same beer?

Probably, but maybe not.

So concludes a recent study on how having to analyze our tastes and preferences changes them. The experiment had two parts:

(1) Researchers wanted to see if the tastes of average citizens matched those of Consumer Reports testers. Using a CR study which ranked 50 jams, they simply asked a random group of college kids to rank strawberry jellies in order of preference, no explanation needed. The college kids had approximately the same preferences in strawberry jams as the CR testers. No surprise there.

(2) The researchers wanted to see if analyzing tastes had any effect on the college kids' tastes. This time, they required the students to give an explanation for their ranking before announcing their preferences. Here's where it gets interesting--the college kids suddenly had very different tastes than the CR folks and the other test group that was not required to explain their choices.

What do we get out of this, and what does it have to do with riding a bike? Hm...

A bike race (or any event, for that matter) is something that happens. The happening.

And then there is how we narrate it, either after the fact or during the fact. The telling. The explanation for why we like some strawberry jams better than others.

Some people, mostly Frenchmen and sports announcers, deny the happening its autonomy. For them, there is only the telling. Readers, watchers, listeners, commentators--we're doing the telling. Those who emphasize the telling believe the brain is not only the largest erogenous zone, but the only erogenous zone. These are pornography innovators, postmodernists, attorneys, and artists such as Christopher Nolan (of Inception).

But for the rest of us, there is the fact of the matter. What happened. It's important. If you've been struck by a vehicle, for example, what happened is important for getting compensation. If you've won a MABRA jersey it's important that you actually won the jersey, and don't just have a great story and a tailor capable of manufacturing you a fugazi MABRA champ jersey.

The only thing that provides some proof of the happening is collective memory. And this is where you get f-d up by Christopher Nolan and scientists who ask you to give a reason for choosing Knott's Berry Farm Strawberry Jelly of Schmucker's.

Here's one more interesting result of the jam study: for CR testers, thinking about why they prefer one jam to another makes them better at judging jam; on college kids, thinking makes them worse. We can guess that college kids don't think about jam much; they're novices. If they thought about it more, the act of analyzing their tastes wouldn't trip them up.

In other words, thinking and feeling both have their place in life. Making choices and choosing isn't best served by merely going with one's gut, like invading Iraq. When it comes to prefering Duvel to Icehouse, Campy to SRAM, the brain doesn't need to be the largest erogenous zone.

1 comment:

rez said...

He treats objects like women, man.