I had several conversations last week with photographers about perception. The people doing the hiring arrive at an initial decision about you by factoring in something they think will happen based on their perception of you. I have no real insights into creating a perception about yourself other than there are many factors that go into it and the traditional marketing methods exist not only to reach potential clients but also to build the perception of who you are. The reason I’m bringing it up is because 3 examples of perception were brought to my attention suddenly and I wanted to share them.
Seth Goodin has a new name and forward to an old book of his now called, “All Marketers
Are Liars Tell Stories” (here). In the new forward he states:
“You believe things that aren’t true.
Let me say that a different way: many things that are true are true because you believe them.
[...]We believe what we want to believe, and once we believe something, it becomes a self-fulfilling truth.”
Last month a bombshell dropped in the wine world (here) when taste maker (and vineyard maker or breaker) Robert Parker blind tasted a group of wines he had previously ranked and said the lowest ranked wine was his favorite (before finding out what it was).
Jonah Lehrer, a contributing editor at Wired and author of “How We Decide” weighs in on this remarkable turn of events:
When we take a sip of wine, we don’t taste the wine first, and the cheapness or redness second. We taste everything all at once, in a single gulp of thiswineisred, or thiswineisexpensive. As a result, the wine “experts” sincerely believed that the white wine was red, or that Lafite was actually Troplong-Mondot. Such mistakes are inevitable: Our brain has been designed to believe itself, wired so that our prejudices feel like facts, our opinions indistinguishable from the actual sensation. If we think a wine is cheap, it will taste cheap. And if we think we are tasting a grand cru, then we will taste a grand cru.
The Wall Street Journal takes the story further (here) with this article on the wine-rating system:
[Mr. Hodgson] obtained the complete records of wine competitions, listing not only which wines won medals, but which did not. Mr. Hodgson told me that when he started playing with the data he “noticed that the probability that a wine which won a gold medal in one competition would win nothing in others was high.” The medals seemed to be spread around at random, with each wine having about a 9% chance of winning a gold medal in any given competition.
[...]The distribution of medals, he wrote, “mirrors what might be expected should a gold medal be awarded by chance alone.”
Finally, Lise Varrette sent me this old story from the Washington Post:
On a cold January morning in a Washington, DC Metro Station, a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time about two thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
[...]In the end, only 6 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. When he finished playing, no one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
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 had sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
[...]It’s an old epistemological debate, older, actually, than the koan about the tree in the forest. Plato weighed in on it, and philosophers for two millennia afterward: What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume), or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant)?
We’ll go with Kant, because he’s obviously right, and because he brings us pretty directly to Joshua Bell, sitting there in a hotel restaurant, picking at his breakfast, wryly trying to figure out what the hell had just happened back there at the Metro.
“Let’s say I took one of our more abstract masterpieces, say an Ellsworth Kelly, and removed it from its frame, marched it down the 52 steps that people walk up to get to the National Gallery, past the giant columns, and brought it into a restaurant. It’s a $5 million painting. And it’s one of those restaurants where there are pieces of original art for sale, by some industrious kids from the Corcoran School, and I hang that Kelly on the wall with a price tag of $150. No one is going to notice it. An art curator might look up and say: ‘Hey, that looks a little like an Ellsworth Kelly. Please pass the salt.'”
Leithauser’s point is that we shouldn’t be too ready to label the Metro passersby unsophisticated boobs. Context matters.
Kant said the same thing. He took beauty seriously: In his Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, Kant argued that one’s ability to appreciate beauty is related to one’s ability to make moral judgments. But there was a caveat. Paul Guyer of the University of Pennsylvania, one of America’s most prominent Kantian scholars, says the 18th-century German philosopher felt that to properly appreciate beauty, the viewing conditions must be optimal.
Read the whole story (here).