CLOSE

Rory Sutherland on Perceived Value

Rory Sutherland is one of my favorite TED Talkers (ahem, "Speakers"). He's a former advertising executive who is concerned with psychology -- specifically, how people perceive what is valuable, and how that perception can actually become tangible value. This makes for some interesting quotations, like from this talk: “Where economists make the fundamental mistake is they think that money is money.” Sutherland is talking about how it matters to us where the money we spend is going: if we spend money thinking it's going to good people doing good work, we're more willing to part with it than if we think it's going to incompetent buffoons. And he's right.

In this eighteen-minute talk, Sutherland leads us through a series of examples in "re-framing" situations. Some of these are simple and obvious, like the observation that retired people are, as a group, happier than unemployed young people -- despite similar circumstances (not much money and not much to do all day), retired people are generally retired on purpose. Their frame of reference is different, so their experience of life is different. Some of Sutherland's examples are much more subtle, like his observation that a main reason Google initially succeeded at being a search engine was because it just did search, rather than take the "portal" approach all other Internet companies tried. (And people like single-purpose services; we think companies tend to be best at doing one thing well.) Frankly I think there's something to that, and his point is further proved by Google's current attempt to do "everything" and its growing creepiness.

For: anyone interested in how we think, or looking for a few interesting anecdotes. (For example, apparently South Korean red lights have a countdown timer, which has been shown to reduce traffic accidents and incidents of road rage -- when you know how much longer you have to wait, the waiting is less painful.)

Language alert: Sutherland drops a single f-bomb around 1:20. I think it's hilarious, but your mileage may vary.

See also: Turning Squares into Diamonds, from our Lectures for a New Year series in January.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Kohske Takahashi, i-Perception (2017)
arrow
fun
Can You Figure Out This Newly Discovered Optical Illusion?
Kohske Takahashi, i-Perception (2017)
Kohske Takahashi, i-Perception (2017)

Ready to have your mind boggled? Take a look at the image above. What shape are the lines? Do they look like curves, or zigzags?

The image, spotted by Digg, is a new type of optical illusion published in the aptly named journal i-Perception. Discovered by Japanese psychologist Kohske Takahashi, it’s called the “curvature blindness illusion,” because—spoiler—the contrast of the lines against the gray background makes our eye see some of the lines as zigzags when, in fact, they’re all smooth curves.

The illusion relies on a few different factors, according to the three experiments Takahashi conducted. For it to work, the lines have to change contrast just at or after the peak of the curve, reversing the contrast against the background. You’ll notice that the zigzags only appear against the gray section of the background, and even against that gray background, not every line looks angled. The lines that look curvy change contrast midway between the peaks and the valleys of the line, whereas the lines that look like they contain sharp angles change contrast right at the peak and valley. The curve has to be relatively gentle, too.

Go ahead, stare at it for a while.

[h/t Digg]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
literature
Vivid Imagery Makes Poetry More Pleasurable, According to Psychologists
iStock
iStock

Contrary to what English teachers led us to believe, most readers don’t judge poetry based on factors like alliteration and rhyme. In fact, a new study published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts suggests that vivid imagery (i.e. sense-evoking description) is what makes a poem compelling, according to Smithsonian.

To determine why some poetic works are aesthetically pleasing while others are less so, researchers from New York University and the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, Germany, had more than 400 online volunteers read and rate 111 haikus and 16 sonnets. Participants answered questions about each one, including how vivid its imagery was, whether it was relaxing or stimulating, how aesthetically pleasing they found it, and whether its content was positive or negative.

Not surprisingly, taste varied among subjects. But researchers did find, overall, that poems containing colorful imagery were typically perceived as more pleasurable. (For example, one favorite work among subjects described flowers as blooming and spreading like fire.) Emotional valence—a poem's emotional impact—also played a smaller role, with readers ranking positive poems as more appealing than negative ones. Poems that received low rankings were typically negative, and lacked vivid imagery.

Researchers think that vivid poems might also be more interesting ones, which could explain their popularity in this particular study. In the future, they hope to use similar methodology to investigate factors that might influence our enjoyment of music, literature, and movies.

[h/t Smithsonian]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios