February 6, 2013

Priming: Responses change over time

Cotopaxi, Frederic Edwin Church's 1862
painting (7'x4') of the Ecuadorean volcano
Frederic Edwin Church was America's richest painter around the time of the Civil War. He traveled to spectacular landscapes, such as the Andes and Niagara Falls. He painted giant landscapes which he exhibited, one at a time, to masses of paying customers. Each new Church landscape was an event. His Heart of the Andes sold for $10,000, a vast sum for an American painting in the mid-19th Century. (Here's the 1863 NYT's review of Cotopaxi.)

But then tastes changed and the value of his art plummeted. Some of his pictures wound up in nightclubs and restaurants as cheap decor, as failed attempts to class up the dump.

And then tastes changed again, and Church's work slowly regained stature. By 1980, one of his works became the first American painting to sell for a million dollars. His top paintings now are featured prominently in America's top museums. His stature appears permanently secure.
Artist's conception of the White House's
lost Tiffany Screen
Here's a painting by current artist Peter Waddell, The Grand Illumination, that represents President Benjamin Harrison overseeing the turning on the first electric lights in the White House in 1891. The point of the picture, actually, is to provide an artist's conception of the most legendary work of decor in White House history, the colored class screen installed in the Entrance Hall by Louis Comfort Tiffany when he redecorated the White House for the urbane Chester Arthur. 

Today, glass artworks by Tiffany are once again worth a fortune, but they fell radically out of fashion in the 1900s. Teddy Roosevelt had the Tiffany glass in the White House junked. The great screen, like so much Tiffany glass, was destroyed. So this painting is based on black and white photos and some surviving Tiffany works of the same era to create a speculative image of what once was.

The point of these examples are that people once found that the works of Frederic Edwin Church and Louis Comfort Tiffany primed them to experience very positive emotions, and they work almost as well today. If, say, you are invited to a charity event held in a ballroom decorated by Tiffany, you'd probably feel more privileged, pleased, and generous than if the event were held in, say, a suburban church basement. If you invited a date to the charity bash, you might find she finds the Tiffany ballroom more priming than the church basement.

Yet, both Church and Tiffany also each went through decades when their art primed people in the exact opposite direction: they found their masterpieces depressing.

Why would social psychologists expect that their lame little attempts to prime feelings in subjects in experiments would continue to work the same over the decades when masters like Church and Tiffany couldn't get consistent responses?

68 comments:

Thursday said...

A lot of this "wearing off" effect has to do with overrepetition. If Tiffany glass is everywhere, it starts to get annoying.

Beethoven's Moonlight sonata got overplayed in the early 20th century and people started to turn against it, but now that it isn't played so much, one has to say that it is one damn beautiful piece of music, possibly Beethoven's best. Conversely something like Beethoven's Hammarklaviar is too aesthetically challenging to ever become popular, so it is in no danger of getting overplayed. Hence, intellectuals have always loved it.

Anonymous said...

I've got a great idea for a social priming experiment.

I'm going to get a megaphone and shout "walk slow!" at groups of students. Brilliant! My grant should be in the mail.

Kaplan Family said...

I think there might be two different issues here, whether the results are replicatable across a significant time-span and whether they are replicatable at all. It seemed that the problem was the latter -- that the experiments were just poorly done. In the former case subliminal priming would be a real cognitive mechanism so to speak but what inputs elicited what outputs would change over time. No?

Anonymous said...

Same thing is happening in music.

Circa the 1970s, Gustav Mahler was widely acknowledged to be a God in music circles.

Fast forward 30-ish years, and he is rarely if ever played anymore.

My guess is that the Scots-Irish finally awoke to the fact that he had converted to Roman popery and had written the 1st movement of the 8th Symphony in Latin, rather than in Gaelic-brew [which was obviously an unforgiveable faux-pas on his part].

Some more very brief impressions from the last 40-ish years:


Bach: holding steady since the 1960's Moog Synthesizer craze.

Handel: on the decline [tracks the decline in religiosity in general; also, Robert Shaw's death didn't help matters]

Mozart: unprecedented, meteoric rise, s/p 1984's Amadeus

Haydn: holding steady, maybe even some strange new respect

Beethoven: on the decline since 1970's peak with Charles Schulz's "Schroeder" character, Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and Walter Murphy's A Fifth

Schubert: holding steady; helped immensely by 1983's The Hunger

Berlioz: holding steady [go figure]

Liszt: big decline [predictable enough]

Chopin: big decline [this doesn't make any sense at all - should be huge with the effete urban light-in-the-loafers crowd]

Bruckner: huge increase [who'da thunk it?!?]

Brahms: moderate decline [you no longer hear the Triple Concerto five times a day]

Dvorak: strong increase

Tchaikovsky: moderate-to-big decline

Debussy: huge decline

Ravel: huge increase

Stravinsky/Prokofiev/Shostakovich: have fallen off the edge of the cliff [much like Mahler and Debussy]

Anonymous said...

I think you're chasing a red herring, Steve. More likely "priming" is junk science. Either that or get ready for the Department of Education Commission For Fighting Racism By Discovering Current Gap-Closing Primers.

As always, more funding and further studies are needed.

Anonymous said...

It may be due to the fact that painting lost its monopoly on visual "priming" to more powerful new technologies like photographs and moving pictures.

Today, the most powerful and novel audio-visual stimulation technology is high-speed, hardcore internet pornography, and it appears to be having quite significant "priming" effects:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/201209/porn-masturbation-and-mojo-neuroscience-perspective

http://washingtonexaminer.com/study-watching-porn-boosts-support-for-same-sex-marriage/article/2520461

Anonymous said...

side note, but according to Paul Johnson' s book 'Creators" Tiffany even begged Roosevelt to allow him to buy back the decor, but TR refused, he hated Tiffany because he was a womanizer who had affairs with men's wives - and lived near TR and TR thought he was a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

Why would social psychologists expect that their lame little attempts to prime feelings in subjects in experiments would continue to work the same over the decades when masters like Church and Tiffany couldn't get consistent responses?

The problem may sort of be like someone who is mechanically inept trying to test whether heavier than air objects can fly. He tries produce flying objects but is terrible at building stuff. Nothing flies and many people therefore conclude that it is impossible for objects that are heavier than air to fly.

We have no reason to believe that social psychologists would be adept at "priming" people. They try though in their experiments, and when they fail many people end up concluding that priming is not a real phenomenon. This often discourages further experimentation and tinkering. The people who may actually be adept at priming, may not be conscious of how they do it, or may regard it as a kind of "trade secret", sort of like showmen in the past who put on electricity shows before electricity was understood, and be averse to sharing them.

Anonymous said...

The Cotopaxi painting sort of reminds me of Thomas Kinkade's ouevre.

According to Wiki, "[Kinkade] was claimed to be "America's most-collected living artist" before his death with an estimated 1 in every 20 American homes owning a copy of one of his paintings."

This sort of painting may still produce positive feelings in people.

Anon87 said...

Steve,

Vaguely OT, but the AVClub looks at not-always-appreciated Mike Judge's failed TV show. I can't say it was that great, but it seems like a liberal reviewer can't quite take the jokes (anti-Right, anti-white, anti-male jokes aren't dated either? That humor well seems to be never-ending).

Also, should the SPLC classify itself as a "hate group" now?

Portlander said...

So, all(?) great art starts out as fashion.

It then goes through the gawky adolescent stage where the new guard turns their nose up at their parents' kitsch.

Finally, if it has enduring artistic merit, ie, it still stirs the soul of men, it is deemed Great Art.

Obviously the arbitrage is being able to recognize Great Art in its kitsch phase. I posit the necessary (but is it sufficient?) pre-req for Great Art is technical skill. Tiffany & Church obviously have it.

Steve Sailer said...

"Circa the 1970s, Gustav Mahler was widely acknowledged to be a God in music circles."

I can remember seeing Mahler bumper stickers in the 1970s.

There's an opera database of global opera production statistics online. I'm not sure how far back it goes, but it would be interesting to see trends over time.

Steve Sailer said...

"I think you're chasing a red herring, Steve. More likely "priming" is junk science."

As I've said, I'm putting forth a best-case scenario for the 1990s priming experiments that supposedly replicated just fine in the 1990s, but don't seem to replicate in the 2010s.

Auntie Analogue said...


Once considered an All-American taste without regard to his status, or classification, the work of Norman Rockwell went through a period of disparagement as sentimentalist nativist tripe, and it was dismissed as the work not of an artist, but of a mere illustrator. Now Rockwell's had a renaissance and is increasingly considered an artist, and his work has risen in value. But then this is true of all American, and many European illustrators from the great age of magazine-poster illustration. That which was not Art at its debut comes to be regarded as Art, and this trend is likely to grow with respect to individually crafted objects in this age of finger-click digital mass reproduction of virtual "things."

And am I alone here in feeling unable to get over the sneaking suspicion that with this topic, Mr. Sailer, you've been priming us Sailermates? Has he asked us not to think about a white bear? (!)

Portlander said...

BTW, the Radio Lab guys did a show on the topic of experimental results trending down over time. Most interestingly was that the effect applied to animals and, IIRC, even non-organic systems. It's like the Universe itself is learning.

They called it Cosmic Habituation. Nice name.

Anonymous said...

Handel is certainly not on the decline in opera, where more work are being added to the repertoire every few years; and Handel was primarily a composer of operas.

Kai

wren said...

I'm seeing apples to oranges here.

There are always all kinds of fads and fashions that people follow that are separate from how they may really feel about whatever it is that is in or out of style.

A lot of it is SWPL-mentality, too. "If it is now popular with the masses then I don't like it because I'm superior to the masses," etc.

This behavior may trump how people honestly react to things.

kaganovitch said...

"My guess is that the Scots-Irish finally awoke to the fact that he had converted to Roman popery and had written the 1st movement of the 8th Symphony in Latin, rather than in Gaelic-brew [which was obviously an unforgiveable faux-pas on his part]."


If the jews were really smart they would have figured that out a wee bit earlier no? It took 80 years? At any rate Mahler's conversion was no more sincere than Heine's who the jews have always loved despite his apostasy

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what the issue is here. GOOD experiments usually have what is called a "manipulation check", where the experimenter sees if what they thought they were priming was actually what was primed. I'm not sure many people give a shit what specific thing does the priming, so long as the priming works.

In other words, it doesn't matter at all if an object doesn't prime the same way after 20 years. A good scientist will just find something else which does work.

Steve Sailer said...

"it doesn't matter at all if an object doesn't prime the same way after 20 years. A good scientist will just find something else which does work."

Which is how good interior decorators stay in business. But aren't scientists supposed to be discovering permanent truths? If their discoveries last only as long as fads in interior decoration, maybe they aren't scientists?

Mr Lomez said...

I'm also seeing apples and oranges. Unlike priming experiments (and their commercial relatives, marketing and fashion) the purpose of art is not to induce behavior, though it might as a side effect. An artist's goal is not to sell his art, let alone instruct people how to think or even feel. Rather, as Robert Stone said, speaking of literature, "The service of art is merely to add to human consciousness." Again, this is a high-minded notion, but whether or not a piece of art is fashionable is utterly removed from the question of whether it has in some meaningful way enlargened the human condition.

Art is not an extension of priming. Pop-art on the other hand...

Anonymous said...

"Which is how good interior decorators stay in business. But aren't scientists supposed to be discovering permanent truths? If their discoveries last only as long as fads in interior decoration, maybe they aren't scientists?"

The point of priming research isn't usually "x primes y" (or at least it shouldn't be, I don't do research in that area so I can't speak with that much expertise). From my understanding, the important point is that "it is possible to prime y". The main value for priming research is that if scientists know they can prime y, they can prime it and see what people do in response to some other stimulus.

Steve Sailer said...

" the purpose of art is not to induce behavior"

Okay, but was Louis Comfort Tiffany an artist or a decorator? Chester Arthur saw him as a fashionable decorator, one who could make the interior of the White House a better tool for the President and for Americans in inducing desirable behavior in visitors to the White House. 20 years later, Teddy Roosevelt saw Tiffany as an unfashionable decorator. Today, when his surviving work is relatively rare and typically ends up on display rather than in use, he seems more like an artist.

Frederic Edwin Church started out with everybody thinking of him as a titanic artist. But then, for awhile his paintings were used as unfashionable interior decorating -- hang one up behind the bar in your saloon. But, then he came back into favor in the art world and his big painting have pride of place in the finest museums in the land.

Steve Sailer said...

"the important point is that "it is possible to prime y""

Okay, but nonscientists such as artists and decorators and writers and actors and chefs and so forth and so on have been priming feelings and behaviors forever.

What can scientists bring to the party? The assumption has been: replicability. After all, that's what philosophers of science say the point of science is.

But, now it looks like a lot of the famous priming experiments of the 1990s are no longer replicable. Assuming that they actually were replicated back in the 1990s (and maybe they weren't replicable back then either, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt for the purpose of argument), then are they science or are they, at best, art?

Anonymous said...

^same academic anon as before

Just saw the previous blog posting about priming. The implication being thrown around there is that priming just flat out doesn't work. That WOULD be a big deal.

I think it probably does work, but wouldn't shock me if it doesn't. Your theory about the changes in tastes is interesting, but if people are completely failing to replicate, I'm not sure changing tastes would explain it. If changing tastes are the issue, you should be able to replicate SOME "x -> y" effect within a short enough time frame; tastes don't change that fast. The non-replicators would then say "I couldn't find x->y, but I did find x->z and replicate it".

Anonymous said...

"Okay, but nonscientists such as artists and decorators and writers and actors and chefs and so forth and so on have been priming feelings and behaviors forever."

And we have all known about the existence of gender differences since the dawn of time, but a good academic paper displaying that gender differences do exist and are not a function of culture would be a fairly big deal. (In the academic community at least).

Admittedly, a LOT of what academics study is silly, and I'm not well versed enough to properly either defend or condemn the value of priming research.

Anonymous said...

Ugh, keep adding random comments, but things keep occuring to me:

One of the points of priming research is that you can be primed by things you don't even really notice, or don't consciously realize has had an impact on you. So when you point out that artists have been creating feelings in people for years, thats no big surprise; but usually people can identify "I feel a certain way in response to x". Priming research says that you can be primed by a feeling or concept even if you aren't consciously aware of the source or what it is doing to you. For the "walking slow" experiment, I doubt a single one would specifically say "I feel older/slower", or if they did, they wouldn't be able to identify the words they saw as being the source of those feelings.

operabase comment said...

Watch out for that opera database. The version I say clownishly forgot to recognize Samson and Delilah as an opera, thus comically downgrading Saint-Saens, for some glitchy reason I suppose; and also failed to recognize that Nabucco is produced as a patriotic showpiece in small-town Italy rather than as a real opera (sort of as if every Sousa concert the Marine band plays were counted) thus vaulting Nabucco towards the top of Verdi's operas when most experts would not put it near the top ten... I could be wrong, of course, it takes about 200K in expenses to become an expert on live operas and I agonize over paying my stupid cable bill every month ...

Mr Lomez said...

"Okay, but was Louis Comfort Tiffany an artist or a decorator?"

Whether or not something is considered "art" at any given cultural moment is irrelevant. The culture is often wrong -- because it lags behind the art, because it confuses pop-art with art, or because it holds personal vendettas against the artist. Nevertheless, art -- real, good, meaningful art -- will ultimately separate from the dross. Which is the point: unlike priming experiments or fashion, true art has lasting power. The definition is in the distinction.

Extropico said...

Great painting by Church. I first read about exploring Cotopaxi and Chimborazo when studying the geographer Baron Alexander von Humboldt.

http://www.uni-potsdam.de/u/romanistik/humboldt/hin/hin10/inh_baron_4.htm

Portlander said...

As far as priming, I have to believe Wall Street and the Fed Gov has been at it for decades.

Remember the first time gas broken $1/gal? How about $2/gal? $5? If it breaks $5 a second (third?) time, will it even make the news?

What about indebtedness. Housed used to be 20% down and 3x your salary. My, how quaint.

College degree? A really good blue-collar summer job could all but float you the other 9 months.

Let's not even go near the national debt.

How about income and sales taxes? FICA & Medicare? We've been primed for close to 100 years.

Anonymous said...

but was Louis Comfort Tiffany an artist or a decorator?
Tiffany was an accomplished painter - his paintings are on display at the MEt and Brooklyn Museum..




Teddy Roosevelt saw Tiffany as an unfashionable decorator.
see comment above - TR did not like his lifestyle.

Anonymous said...

But then, for awhile his paintings were used as unfashionable interior decorating -- hang one up behind the bar in your saloon.
funny most people buy modern art (like Rothko) because it goes good with the furniture - art and what hung on the walls used to not be about 'decoration', for example, it was common to have historic figures hanging in homes (George Washington, etc) and episodes from history, and religious imagery - it was meant to inspire and instruct not just 'look good'

Mr. Anon said...

"Steve Sailer said...

""Circa the 1970s, Gustav Mahler was widely acknowledged to be a God in music circles.""

I can remember seeing Mahler bumper stickers in the 1970s."

What Mark Twain said about Wagner actually applies much better to Mahler: "His music is better than it sounds".

Anonymous said...

There are a number of different tricks casinos use to keep people burning money. I wonder if they really do work and if so, would they qualify as "priming"?

http://barryborsboom.wordpress.com/2008/10/15/the-psycholgy-of-casinos/

"Anyone who has been to Las Vegas will know that casinos are fascinating places. According to Kati St Clair, a business psychologist, the aim is to induce a trance-like state in gamblers.

Casinos make you feel intimate, enclosed, euphoric; you’re in a suggestible state in which you want to stay where you are, continuing to do what you are doing,

So how do they do it?

Sense of time
There are no windows or clocks. Gamblers have no idea whether it’s light or dark or sunny or rainy outside. Time becomes meaningless.

Navigation
There’s intentionally poor navigation. They are built like mazes meaning it’s usually tough to find a way out. They even build the floors on a minimum slope to the center of the casino so that you automatically walk to the center of the casino.

Music
There’s a constant barrage of noises. Slot machines spin, games ding and dong, coins hit metal, there’s the pitter patter of the people running the games, etc. Many of these sounds, like the ringing of the slots, is there to give you a false sense of hope (“If all of those bells are ringing, somebody must be winning!”).

Placement
Loose slot machines — ones that pay out more often — are placed near highly trafficked areas (e.g. the aisles, change booth, restaurants, etc.) so more people witness winners.

Scents
Gamblers at the Las Vegas Hilton Casino spent 50 percent more time playing slot machines when the space was perfumed with a floral scent than when it smelled like an everyday casino. The stronger the fragrance, the longer individuals gambled.

The result: a completely immersive and compelling customer experience."

Peter the Shark said...

Shostakovich has not "fallen off a cliff", if anything he has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the last 40 years in the music world. Shostakovich used to be considered "too" accessible and a Soviet tool. Now he has been rehabilitated as a secret dissident and probably the last serious composer who made music ordinary people might enjoy listening too. And as an added bonus his string quartets provide enough intellectual meat that the smart set doesn't have to be embarassed about liking him.

Anonymous said...

If the scots-irish were really smart they would have figured that out a wee bit earlier no? It took 80 years? At any rate Mahler's conversion was no more sincere than Heine's who the scots-irish have always loved despite his apostasy

Mahler was championed throughout the 1950s and 1960s by assimilationist [or faux-assimiliationist] Scots-Irishmen, like Bruno "Walter" MacSchlesinger*, George "Solti" MacStern, and the grand dame herself, Leonard MacBernstein.

They pushed Mahler so hard that suddenly the funds started appearing which were necesary for the staging of massive spectaculars, like the Mahler 2nd, or the Mahler 8th, any one of which must cost on the order of several hundred thousand dollars to pull off [if not the better part of $1 Million].

And my suspicion is that, in turn, all these new performances and recordings got the Scots-Irish to reading a bunch of concert guides and LP liner notes, with the lyrics to the symphonies, and then suddenly Mahler's ostensibly insincere conversion to Roman popery didn't seem to them to be quite so insincere anymore.



*BTW, Walter, a student of Mahler's, also converted to Roman popery at the end of his life.

Anonymous said...

Shostakovich has not "fallen off a cliff"

The hell he hasn't.

He was constantly on the radio in the 1970s [peaking with Rostrophovich's recording of the 5th with the National Symphony] - in fact, Shostakovich was just about as big as Mahler at that time - but then suddenly he just vanished into thin air.

I haven't heard Shostakovich on the radio or the television in YEARS.

Same thing with Stravinsky - used to be that every weekend, some little chamber group or another was staging a performance of L'Histoire du soldat - but now you gotta pull out an old DVD of Walt Disney's Fantasia just to hear the guy.

Heck, beyond Peter & the Wolf, and maybe the occasional performance of the Classical Symphony, you never hear Prokofiev anymore.

Seriously - when was the last time you heard a broadcast of Lt Kije?

Kije was like bread and butter back in the 1970s, but you never hear it anymore.

Or Love for Three Oranges?

It's been DECADES since I've heard LfTO.

Or Montagues & Capulets?

With the exception of Rachmaninoff, it's as though the entire Russian school just got swallowed up by a great big black hole and disappeared right out of the public consciousness.

wren said...

Heck, beyond Peter & the Wolf, and maybe the occasional performance of the Classical Symphony, you never hear Prokofiev anymore.


I'm coming from the ballet side, but I seem to be hearing Prokofiev all over the place.

Chris Wheeldon, a popular young choreographer, just did a new Cinderella, of which, of course, Prokofiev's score is a major part.

I will go days with the Montagues & Capulets stuck in my head. Love it. It makes every day life so dramatic.

Now it's there again.

Thanks.

wren said...

Maybe I can get it stuck in someone elses head for a few days.

This version seems a little slower than others.

I do hope that Prokofiev moves back up in those rankings.

Anonymous said...

What about Khachaturian?

BrokenSymmetry said...

Shostakovich enjoyed a bump when Kubrick used one of his Jazz Suites in "Eyes Wide Shut", but overall my personal impression tallies with that of Anon@2:37pm.

The rise and rise of Mozart coincides with "Amadeus" which also the effect the movie had of fixing Wolfie in the public consciousness as the exemplar of a genius wunderkind. The market for educational materials for pre-schoolers is filled with Baby Mozart items, etc.... I'm pretty sure the researchers who "discovered" the "Mozart effect", whereby listening to c. 5 minutes of Mozart gives a temporary improvement in cognitive performance, were influenced by this as well (incidentally, I'm surprised no-one has brought up the Mozart effect yet!).

Steve Sailer said...

I rewatched "Amadeus" about a year ago. The usual thinking is that of the two twins, Anthony Schaeffer (sp?) was the Superficial Showman (Sleuth), while Peter Schaeffer was the Serious Thinker (Equus, Amadeus). But, man, is Amadeus ever a terrific contraption of showbiz button-pushing. And I mean that in a good sense. It would be great if more high culture figures could have movies as entertaining as Amadeus.

BrokenSymmetry said...

The notion of the Scots-Irish pushing Mahler seems a bit far-fetched. As a counter-example, no-one has ever been able to make a dent in Wagner's popularity. The decline in Mahler's fortunes seems to be a general falling-off of interest in late 19c. music.

BTW, the late Bernard Levin was a formidable champion of Wagner. Levin was a class-act who wrote very sympathetically of Christian art (music, architecture, paintings) and was a great defender of what he viewed as the high-points of Western civilization. The young Arianna Huffington was besotted by him although he was twice her age and they only split when he refused to have children. sadly some of his influence didn't percolate down though her into the HuffPost.

Levin always strikes me as an epitome of the difference between British and American Jewry.

elvisd said...

But aren't scientists supposed to be discovering permanent truths? If their discoveries last only as long as fads in interior decoration, maybe they aren't scientists?

You're being coy here, right?

Anonymous said...

More on Shostakovich: In April of 2007, I remember that I was driving down the road, listening to the classical channel on XM Satellite Radio, when Rostropovich had just died, and either they played some Shostakovich, or they announced that they were going to play some Shostakovich, or maybe [what's most likely] I was just HOPING that they would use Rostropovich's passing as an excuse to play some Shostakovich.

That was six years ago, and it's the last time that I can remember even thinking about Shostakovich in association with a broadcast medium.

Prior to that, James Horner had used just a smidgen of Shostakovich in his scores for 1992's Patriot Games and 1994's Clear and Present Danger.

But if you want to see what it was like back in the 1970s, when Shostakovich was a God, on par with Bach himself, then you neeed to watch 1975's Rollerball.

Actually, I'm looking at those clips of Rollerball and thinking about what an eerily prescient and monumental movie it was - they correctly predicted the degeneration of our society into a set of corporatist-facist oligopolies, with ultraviolent panem et circenses televised spectaculars for the low information voters - although they wrongly predicted that the society would be ruled by the petroleum-hoarders out of Houston, rather than the fiat-electron-hoarders out of NYC.

I guess that in the big scheme of things, fiat-electrons trump even petroleum [at least until the system collapses altogether].

Anyway, I'm feeling like I need to watch Rollerball again - I wonder whether the uncut version has any nekkid scenes of Maud Adams?!?

NOTA said...

I keep thinking that theres a kind of connection between an earlier discussion on regression to the mean and this discussion of how very popular artists and musicians tend to become less popular, and surprising research results tend to become less surprising. The mechanisms are probably sort-of similar--only the biggest successes are called to our attention, and their success is the result of a lot of more or less independent factors all lining up the right way.

With both research and art, there is also a copycat mechanism. If you already know what result or conclusion you should find, it's pretty easy to find that result. Failures are, at least at first, assumed to be your error, not a lack of effect. (If you can't stand Dickens, but everyone around you thinks Dickens is a genius, then you may assume the problem is in you and try harder to appreciate his genius.)

NOTA said...

Is there a good source of information on what social psychology results are widely confirmed vs which ones aren't? For example, I gather that the Millgram experiments were repeated many times, whereas the halo effect experiments weren't replicated. But I'd love to see something from an actual expert about this.

Anonymous said...

I rewatched "Amadeus" about a year ago. The usual thinking is that of the two twins, Anthony Schaeffer (sp?) was the Superficial Showman (Sleuth), while Peter Schaeffer was the Serious Thinker (Equus, Amadeus). But, man, is Amadeus ever a terrific contraption of showbiz button-pushing. And I mean that in a good sense. It would be great if more high culture figures could have movies as entertaining as Amadeus.

Gary Oldman's portrayal of The Master was an epic performance - maybe the best work that Oldman ever did [which is saying something] - but somehow it just never captured the public's imagination the way that Tom Hulce's performance did.

I wonder whether the popularity of Animal House had anything to do with it?

It would be great if more high culture figures could have movies as entertaining as Amadeus.

Ahh, but that would conflict with The Narrative, and NOTHING is allowed to conflict with The Narrative.

Anonymous said...

What about Sibelius? Huge decline?

Anonymous said...

you no longer hear the Triple Concerto five times a day

Oops - DOUBLE concerto.

[I was thinking of Beethoven's Triple Concerto, which is one of those strange-new-respect pieces that is getting more playing time these days.]

Anyway, Brahms's DOUBLE Concerto, and also that French horn solo from his 2nd Piano Concerto, were once ubiquitous on radio and television, but now you almost never hear them anymore.

PS: Just googled and discovered that there's a video of a live performance of Rostropovich & Oistrakh playing the Double Concerto.

WOW - now that would be a swell Christmas present.

slumber_j said...

See, I'd say that painting is shockingly hideous. So much so that it's almost as though the artist intended it to be that way...in which case, hats off.

Anonymous said...

I think the 'Rites of Spring' guy was a fad- that narrow window in the Mauve Decade when giving your lead dancer an assertive codpiece was both Art and Daring.

Commercials and TV and movie music people steal a LOT from Puccini and Brahms. Dunno if that makes it Art.

Dahinda said...

Most people goosestep to what ever is in fashion, not what actully looks nice or what they really like. Nobody wanted to be the boob who still liked Tiffany! Many towns paid to have the buildings on their main streets covered with modern metal and glass screens and coverings in the 50's and 60's because their Victorian exteriors were out of style in the Space Age we were entering. Now many towns are paying to have these same buildings restored to their Victorian glory!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...Ugh, keep adding random comments, but things keep occuring to me:

Do you think anyone notices? Nobody knows what you said before, you're anonymous.

Anonymous said...

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/feb/21/visitors/

Privileged white libs are 'denatured' about blacks.

Anonymous said...

http://lareviewofbooks.org/article.php?id=1365

Anonymous said...

http://lareviewofbooks.org/article.php?type=&id=1162&fulltext=1&media=#article-text-cutpoint

Anonymous said...

I was born in 84, perhaps Mahler was much more popular in the 70s but his music still seems very popular to me.

This debate could be ended with statistics about recording and Opera Houses.

Dahlia said...

"It would be great if more high culture figures could have movies as entertaining as Amadeus."

My dad would go on an on all the time, while watching Amadeus, about the inaccuracies and flat-out falsehoods of the movie, but they didn't keep him from watching it.

We rented that movie back in the '80s so often, that, along with keeping it late sometimes, the movie store gave it to us!
And, yet, when they released it to DVD both my dad and brother got it again. Brother actually bought it twice because he left his at my house and decided that because it made such a great gift, he let me keep it.

pat said...

You can experience the priming effect at any opera house in America. If the newspaper critic praised the tenor he will be applauded, if not he will be met with stony silence.

This is also why Italian opera singers routinely employ claques (paid applauders). I once heard Bergonzi sing Ballo in Vienna. His claque went on and on whenever he as much as opened his mouth. No one was fooled. They had gone too far.

We don't get claques much in the US but we do get slavish adherence to the authority of the critics. After Hildegaard Behrens sang her big aria in Fidelio, my wife and I looked at each other and exclaimed in unison, "Where's the legato?" Behrens, sadly, was over the hill, but she had gotten a rave review from our local tin-eared music critic. The whole house - except for us - screamed their approval.

Caruso wondered about this sort of thing so once during a performance of Pagliacci he sang Beppe's serenade out of sight of the audience. He said he sang it as well as he could but no one applauded.

They hadn't been primed.

Albertosaurus

pat said...

When I saw Amadeus in the movie theater, at the end when he dies right after writing the The Magic Flute and the Requiem, I stood up and in a loud voice said "When is he going to write La Clemenza di Tito?".

Albertosaurus

peterike said...

There are a number of different tricks casinos use to keep people burning money. I wonder if they really do work and if so, would they qualify as "priming"?

The thought process behind designing casinos was challenged and changed dramatically by Roger Thomas, who designed The Bellagio. Very interesting New Yorker profile if you find such things interesting, but subscription required.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/03/26/120326fa_fact_lehrer

Anonymous said...

I dont' think "priming" is the same thing at all as art appreciation. People visiting (or living in) the White House had to look at that Tiffany glass over and over again every day for years or decades and at some point they got sick of it. Kids in priming experiments don't have to do the same experiment every day. In fact, I'm sure the effect must wear off rather quickly if you repeat the same experiment on the same subjects.

Anonymous said...

What about Sibelius? Huge decline?

Yep.

You still hear Swan of Tuonela fairly often, but you never hear the symphonies anymore.

I tell you - Mahler, Sibelius, Debussy, Shostakovich - those guys just dropped right off the face of the earth.

Back in the 1970s, kids would sit around for hours listening to that stuff, and staring at their belly button lint, and trying to ponder the meaning of it all, but today those composers have completely vanished from the public imagination.

On the other hand, like I said above, Berlioz is still holding strong, and there's been a huge surge for Bruckner, so go figure...

Heck, nowadays you hear Hovhaness's Mysterious Mountain about as much as you hear Swan of Tuonela.

And you NEVER hear L'Apres Midi or La Mer or the Nocturnes anymore - those were HUGE back in the 1970s - you couldn't go a Saturday night without hearing at least one performance of La Mer.

Although I guess they used Clair de Lune for Ocean's 11.

PS: And here's one from the grooveyard of forgotten favorites - when was the last time you heard a performance of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra?

I think I've heard it exactly once in the last 20 years.

Anonymous said...

Debussy + Tomita = Horkheimer

Anonymous said...

Ask and ye shall receive: It's shortly before 3AM on the East Coast (I just got up to relieve my bladder in the middle of the night), and Shostakovich's 5th Symphony is playing on DirecTV's "Symphonic" Channel, #864.

So there you have it.

I guess now I need to start agitating for the return of late night showings of Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One.

David Davenport said...

That old classical music is boring.

They ought to speed up the tempo and remix La Mer or Mysterious Mountain with an electronic dance beat.