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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

With the Herd I Share This Lonely View

posted by on July 10 at 13:13 PM

asch1.pngNot that public opinion should ever sway your opinion. Or taste, or liking of a song. But –

I heard a Red Hot Chili Peppers song yesterday that I used to like. But now, the song doesn’t sound so good.

Listening through the filter of Lineout’s (and Megan’s) pointed and colossal dislike of the Peppers, I found faults with the song I had not noticed before. I found myself thinking:

“Dang, Anthony Kiedis really is off here. Is this song cheesy? Are RHCP as bad as everyone says they are? Are those really the words? Kiedis couldn’t have come up with any other way of saying, ‘With the birds I’ll share this lonely view?’”

Upon further and up close review, sure enough, the song sucks.

I offer a simple and scientific reasoning for my transformation -

The Asch Conformity Test.

In 1951 there were a series of studies that plainly demonstrated the power of conformity in groups.

Researcher, Solomon Asch, asked students to participate in a “vision test.” The students were brought into a room and asked to look at a series of lines. They didn’t know the other people taking the test were planted by Asch to purposefully give the wrong answer.

329272~Herd-of-Sheep-Posters.jpg

They were seated in a classroom and told to announce out loud their judgment on the length of several lines drawn on a series of displays. They were asked which line was longer than the other and which were the same length. The planted students had been prearranged to all give an incorrect answer to the tests.

So nine people would look at a two lines where one was clearly shorter than the other, but they would say the shorter line was longer. Then, it would get to the person who wasn’t in on the joke, and many times, they would conform. They would say the shorter line was longer:

While most subjects answered correctly, many showed extreme discomfort, and a high proportion (32%) conformed to the erroneous majority view of the others in the room, even when the majority said that two lines different in length by several inches were the same length.

Control subjects with no exposure to a majority view had no trouble giving the correct answer.

Here are new words for the Chili Peppers song:

"Test results that I wish you saw
Sarcastic mister know it all
Everyone on Lineout says you suck and I'll kiss you 'cause
With the majority I'll share

With the herd I'll share
This lonely view
With the herd I'll share
This lonely view"

RSS icon Comments

1

There's actually been a study about this, specifically covering music. Shows that popularity is due almost entirely to peer pressure, not to any objective quality of the music:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/15/magazine/15wwlnidealab.t.html?ex=1184212800&en=f4379608382ecde1&ei=5070

Posted by MattyDread | July 10, 2007 2:20 PM
2

The Chili Peppers were kinda cool, like 20 years ago, before they turned into fucken journey. only took 'em one album to make that transformation though...

Posted by can't go wrong | July 10, 2007 2:23 PM
3

Matty,

Thanks for that link. I like the part about chaos theory and Madonna:

"The reason is that when people tend to like what other people like, differences in popularity are subject to what is called “cumulative advantage,” or the “rich get richer” effect.

This means that if one object happens to be slightly more popular than another at just the right point, it will tend to become more popular still. As a result, even tiny, random fluctuations can blow up, generating potentially enormous long-run differences among even indistinguishable competitors — a phenomenon that is similar in some ways to the famous “butterfly effect” from chaos theory.

Thus, if history were to be somehow rerun many times, seemingly identical universes with the same set of competitors and the same overall market tastes would quickly generate different winners:

Madonna would have been popular in this world, but in some other version of history, she would be a nobody, and someone we have never heard of would be in her place."

Posted by trent moorman | July 10, 2007 2:43 PM
4

Can someone transcribe Anthony Kiedis' horrible nonsense scat/rapping things he does on many RHCP songs?

Posted by Sally Struthers Lawnchair | July 10, 2007 3:05 PM
5

Indeed. RHCP have turned south.

But what about Flea? Is he still cool?

The majority does taint. I can't tell which line is the longest.

Posted by Monty | July 10, 2007 4:43 PM
6

Another excellent post Trent. It reminds me of recently listening to an old Steve Martin album and hearing him say say "Well excuuuuse me!".

When I was done cringing, I seriously began wondering how I could have ever peed my pants at that line. It's about one-tenth as the decidedly un-funny "whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis?"

Posted by Scott Kennedy | July 11, 2007 2:55 AM
7

What's really funny is the contrarian version of this, when a band that you'd previously liked (like, say, the RHCP before "Mother's Milk" or so) becomes "too popular" and therefore not cool anymore. It's always entertaining to watch the independently-minded contrarians checking the opinions of their contrarian friends to see if a band is stil cool or has jumped the shark.

In marketing, it's basically the "7-Up" strategy: The Un-Cola is supposed to appeal to the people who believe that they are too cool and individualistic to enjoy the same cola as all the "sheep." This ploy has gotten more and more sophisticated over time but seems to boil down to advertising that tells its intended targets that they are way too smart to be taken in by advertising.

Pretty much the exact psychological appeal being made by any product released in the last two decades with the word "alternative" anywhere in it. Remember when "alternative" music was the most popular brand of pop?

Posted by flamingbanjo | July 11, 2007 12:43 PM

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