Conversation: A Film by the Makers of "People in Order"

If you liked yesterday's People in Order post, you'll dig this 11-minute documentary by Lenka Clayton and James Price. Conversation is a fascinating look at how strangers judge each others' faces (each subject is shown film of other subjects, and comments on that person based on his or her face alone). Originally created as an installation displayed on two separate screens, this is a short film in which you watch people judge each other. Stick around past the first few silent moments, things just get more and more complicated as the subjects combine with each other and the editing comes into play. My favorite part starts around 3:40 as a series of people judge a stranger on the right, then finally we get to see his opinions of the others. From the film's description:

"She looks very passionate, would make a very good wife," says a stranger describing the face of another stranger.

Conversation is a fascinating and frank look at the hidden judgments we habitually make about others based on their faces. In this cleverly composed and edited short doc, filmmakers Lenka Clayton and James Price explore the semiotics of body language. We observe candid interviews with 29 strangers from the streets of the East-End of London, England, as they read another stranger's face.

It's a revealing study of how we readily project our fears and hopes onto people we don't know. What does a face really tell you about a person and what does it tell you about your own preconceptions and prejudices?

Conversation from Field Studies on Vimeo.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Words
Have You Heard? Trading Gossip Can Be Good for You
iStock
iStock

Like picking your nose or re-using a dirty coffee cup, trading petty observations and suspicions about others is a function of life no one takes any particular pride in. You might have been told by parents not to say anything about someone "behind their back," and gossip often involves some degree of schadenfreude. In terms of keeping a positive outlook, there's not much to be said for chattering about whether someone got a facelift or if a divorce might be imminent.

Or is there? Ben Healy of The Atlantic recently aggregated compelling data that points to gossip having surprising benefits. When two people discuss negative feelings about a third, they tend to bond over the shared hostility more than if they were sharing pleasant thoughts about him or her. The badmouthing parties also tend to enjoy a sense of accomplishment by reflecting on their own positive traits compared to the failure of others. They might even take a "lesson" from an anecdote about someone's catastrophic life, using it as a cautionary tale. If the gossip has a positive slant, it might be used as inspiration to pursue self-improvement.

That's the other surprising thing about gossip: 96 percent of the time or more, it's not overly negative. Among adolescents, it's usually used to vent about frustrations or to create conversation in pursuit of a bonding experience.  

If gossip truly is good for the soul, most of us are in luck. Talking about an absentee third person is what accounts for two-thirds of all conversation.

[h/t Atlantic]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
science
Pucker Up: Tasting Something Sour Is Linked to Taking Risks
iStock
iStock

Getting out of your comfort zone may be as easy as eating something sour, according to Discover. A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports links tasting sour substances with being more prone to risk-taking.

The study examined the relationship between taste and behavior in 168 participants in two countries using a computerized measurement tool called the Balloon Analogue Risk-Task (BART). Participants have to click a mouse button to inflate a balloon on the screen. They accumulate cash rewards as the balloon expands, but if it explodes, they lose everything—meaning that with each click, they could earn more, but they run the risk of losing their money.

Before they began the task, the participants drank a cup of water that potentially contained one of five different basic taste solutions—bitter, salty, sour, sweet, and umami—or plain water with no taste added. They also completed questionnaires designed to measure personality traits like impulsiveness and risk-taking. They played the gambling game twice.

The researchers found that the sour taste was associated with risk-taking, while sweet and umami tastes made participants more likely to play it safe. Salty and bitter tastes seemed not to have an effect at all on behavior. Participants who drank the sour solution pumped the balloons around 40 percent fuller than those who drank the sweet solution or the umami solution, on average. The sweet group hesitated the most before choosing whether to pump up the balloon or cash out.

To make sure that the results weren’t too skewed by cultural perceptions of taste, the same two trials took place both in the UK and in Vietnam. The latter has some of the highest MSG consumption in the world, potentially counteracting the fact that people in the UK might not be accustomed to the taste of umami. In the Vietnamese study, the sour taste was linked to the highest risk taking, but sweet and umami tastes also seemed to promote risky behavior.

In a third test that took place in the UK, participants were briefed on the average point that the randomized balloon explosions took place. Rather than being totally uncertain when the balloon would explode, they were told it typically exploded around 64 pumps. Again, the sour group took more risks. This held true whether the participants were found to be more analytic decision-makers or more intuitive decision-makers. 

While it might not be a great idea to start binging on Warheads if you’re a gambling addict, the researchers write that “at least in the context for the BART task involving potentially winning small amounts of money, sour does not provoke people to indulge in reckless risky habits.” Instead, they write, it “has unique attributes to modulate risk-taking and may encourage risk-averse people to take new opportunities and potentially lead to a happier life.” They suggest that people with high anxiety or who are otherwise painfully averse to taking risks might want to consider adding more sour substances to their diet.

[h/t Discover]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios