Perception...

Methods and means of supporting critical thinking in education
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vanderpoel
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Perception...

Post by vanderpoel » Wed Jan 12, 2011 10:16 am

In Washington, DC, at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

After about three minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule. About four minutes later the violinist received his first dollar as a woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At six minutes, a young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again. At 1ten minutes, a three-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes, the musician still played continuously. Only six people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32. After 1 hour, he finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $200 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities, organized by the Washington Post. How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?
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Re: Perception...

Post by Major Malfunction » Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:52 am

I can only speak for myself, but I don't go to train stations to loiter.
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Re: Perception...

Post by xouper » Wed Jan 12, 2011 12:10 pm

The short version:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joshua_Bell#Washington_Post_Experiment

The snopes version:
http://www.snopes.com/music/artists/bell.asp

The Pulitzer Prize version:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html

I am skeptical about some of the conclusions that might be drawn from this experiment. There is more to this story than just "packaging" or perceptions. There are many other variables not accounted for in the "experiment". For one thing, given the location and time of day, many that passed by Bell as he was playing had prior contractual obligations and likely would have paid a high price for breaking them. Sometimes its simply a matter of there's a time for work and a time for play. Had it been a lazy summer Sunday afternoon in the park, can it be said that more people would not have stopped to listen?

There's a lot more I could say. The piece in the Washington Post is long but well worth reading. It's also worth watching the video. Not everyone failed to notice something special was going on.

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Re: Perception...

Post by vanderpoel » Wed Jan 12, 2011 8:59 pm

The battle is won before it begins and it begins with perception. That is true for first impressions but they large depend on first intentions. You could say that the perceptions we think of as first impressions are preconceived notions, nothing more than filters on our expectations.

If you can see it you can be it, a winner, a lover, even an alien. Nothing prevents us from applying a glow to our observations, starting with observations about ourselves. The problem lies in communicating that vision to others. If you're going to play in the subway and you're surprised that transit passengers don't stop to admire your great talent you don't understand the meaning of transit. Or talent. Or promotion.

Subways are as good as any other dives where artists survive for a buck and location is not a measure of talent, but promotion is. An art in itself, the promotion that one puts out to get a response has to dovetail with the expectations of the audience.

For instance, if you're selling me a bikini wax at the car wash I expect to see a bikini waxing my windshield and not a landing strip.
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Re: Perception...

Post by Aztexan » Thu Jan 13, 2011 8:27 am

It's like he was playing the theme song for "The Life and Death of Kitty Genovese" in a place where lots of people could hear it but just didn't have the time to listen.
I think a more interesting experiment would be for him to go to different cities across the nation and see how the locals accept or ignore his music and more importantly, himself, because I really don't know the purpose of this little project, other than the obvious one that many of us don't take time to slow down and live a little.
As a musician myself, I would stop and listen because I love hearing what other people can do with their chosen instrument(s). I make it a point to make time to stop and smell them roses in my daily life. I just can't bear nor comprehend the idea of the alternative. As xouper pointed out, it really does depend on what I was doing when our paths happen to cross, but I would stop and listen and appreciate for a while. Very few things are more pressing than stopping and admiring the seemingly few spots of beauty this world has to offer. And the beauty about beauty is that sometimes it is hard to find, but when you do, you will know it. I think that one of life's greatest tragedies is that not enough people are able to experience beauty in its many forms.
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Re: Perception...

Post by Major Malfunction » Thu Jan 13, 2011 2:18 pm

I used to work at a place on a riverside boardwalk popular with street performers and buskers. Three regulars stand out in my mind:

A guy that played Russian music on a piano-accordion in the station underpass every Wednesday morning. It was stark, dark and cold. Echoing concrete and tiled walls. Bustling with dour-faced people in sombre gray/black uniforms trudging to their places of servitude. Depressing as it might seem, I always looked forward to him being there and felt uplifted for the minute it took to walk through, and for hours afterwards humming his tune. It was the appropriateness, for want of a better word. Like the perfect music for a movie scene. And it made me feel like I wasn't alone. I'm not the only one who resents this drudgery. Tho' I don't carry loose change, I often had a coin for him.

On the boardwalk was an old man who played violin most afternoons. Poorly. Skinning cats poorly. But he had a dream and determination. Good for him. He did OK for tips. Mostly from pity, I suppose.

A little further along the boardwalk was his competition - a pretty, young lass - who played classical violin. Very well. She was probably an undergrad musical arts student. Quite the contrast, and she got lots of attention. I remember her well because one lovely summer's day I stopped to appreciate her for a moment. Um... Her music... And her light, figure-flattering, cotton summer dress. Um... Lilting tunes... I think it was Bach... When a sudden flurry of wind lifted her dress right over her head, violin and all, trapping her arms! While she struggled to free herself and restore her dignity, I greatly appreciated her pink nickers.

So you can't tell me I don't take advantage of unanticipated opportunities to uh... Smell the roses... So to speak.
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Re: Perception...

Post by Irvann » Wed Mar 16, 2011 9:24 pm

It's about intent and purpose. You intend to go to one of his shows for the purpose of entertainment. Busker's on the other hand aren't part of peoples daily lives. It's no surprise that hardly anybody recognized him, given the setting. Look around for other experiments like this and you'll be a lot less surprised with the mass of results.

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Re: Perception...

Post by Quasi-Skeptic » Mon May 30, 2011 11:56 pm

xouper wrote:The short version:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joshua_Bell#Washington_Post_Experiment

The snopes version:
http://www.snopes.com/music/artists/bell.asp

The Pulitzer Prize version:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html

I am skeptical about some of the conclusions that might be drawn from this experiment. There is more to this story than just "packaging" or perceptions. There are many other variables not accounted for in the "experiment". For one thing, given the location and time of day, many that passed by Bell as he was playing had prior contractual obligations and likely would have paid a high price for breaking them. Sometimes its simply a matter of there's a time for work and a time for play. Had it been a lazy summer Sunday afternoon in the park, can it be said that more people would not have stopped to listen?

There's a lot more I could say. The piece in the Washington Post is long but well worth reading. It's also worth watching the video. Not everyone failed to notice something special was going on.


I agree with xouper. business people are concerned with their jobs from the time they leave from work until they come back from work. testing them isnt a great experiment on perception. theyre blinded, so in theory they wouldnt take a few minutes to listen to a musician playing on the side.
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Disputed loud and long,
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Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong."

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Re: Perception...

Post by zorba » Wed Aug 10, 2011 5:19 am

I think this experiment was supposed to demonstrate blindness (or failing to notice something) due to lack of attention or having your attention focused on something else. I think the famous "invisible gorilla" experiment was intended to demonstrate some of the same principles.
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