Thursday, January 31, 2013

say what? say what?

I'm filing this note under 'context is king' and possible 'the medium is the message'.

Scientists at universities in the UK and Spain have conducted experiments that appear to prove that the context in which certain foods are presented has a significant effect on how they 'taste'.

In the reported example tests showed that hot chocolate served in an orange coloured cup is percieved to 'taste' better.

This reminded me of the other example from a couple of years back when Coca-Cola drinkers complained that regular Coke presented in seasonal 'silver snowflake' cans for Christmas tasted worse, despite the actual content being no different to the normal red cans.

While this should not be surprising or news to anyone - for example we'll routinely (and happily) pay more for a nice ambience in restaurants, it undoubtably makes the entire dining experience more pleasurable as it occurs, making the food 'taste' better.

And perhaps the tasting experience of coca-cola is connected to a memory component, the colour of can is remembered to be consistently red. So when that 'memory' is disrupted and replaced with a new more recent one the situation has changed and is therefore perceived differently.

I'm guessing the 'neuro' explanation is around sensory perception being multi-sensory. A mutual possession, if you like, but with one dominant agent.

For a laugh and another context on 'context' allow me to recount this tale from my dj days.

This is back in the early 90's, at a club I ran we booked top dj's and producers Rocky and Diesel to do a turn.

Unfortunately the airline had managed to mis-place their record boxes on the flight up from London to Aberdeen and so the guys arrived at the club for their spot sans music.

Fortunately the record boxes of myself and my dj partner were balearic-ly eclectic and cock-full of similar tunes that Rocky and Diesel would have been likely to spin anyway, and If we kept schtum about the lost boxes all would be fine.

Like true pro's the two Darrens played a typically blinding set. Even without their own tunes.

In fact we noted to our delight (and self-validation) that they employed many sequences of tunage that were the same as we did.

I even received envious comments concerning some Johnny Vicious bootleg or other in the box that was highly sought after and hitherto unavailable even to the capital's top spinners.

The surprising thing though was the commentary post-gig from the assembled trainspotters and club boffins.

These experts declared the gig to be the best that the town had witnessed for some considerable time, and noted that the resident dj's (us) should do well to take note from our guests and endeavour to find and play more of that rare deep underground tech-house blah blah tunage, the likes of which had never been heard in provincial Aberdeen before. Ever.


An early lesson that content is important but the context in which the content is delivered is everything for perception.

Say what?

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