Judge music at the first note? No! At the first sight!

Listening to music with your eyes closed is a good way to judge if the music is your dish or not. However, some research started a few years ago to judge music without sound. IS THAT POSSIBLE? Some researchers think yes. “Social judgements are made on the basis of both visual and auditory information, with consequential implications for our decisions” — Sight over sound in the judgment of music performance, written by Chia-Jung Tsay.

An experiment was designed to test the truth of this theory. During the experiment, volunteers were separated into two groups to test who would be better at predicting the winners of a music contest. For one group, she had them only listen to audio or only view a silent video of the contestants performing. For the other group, they could watch the video with sound. Then she asked both groups to identify, from experiencing just one of those types of media, which of the contestants they thought had won the competition.

“What was surprising was that even though most people will say sound matters the most, it turned out that it was only in the silent videos, the videos without any sound, that participants were able to identify the actual winners,” Tsay says.

Incredibly, the volunteers were better able to identify the winners when they couldn’t hear the music at all, compared with when they could only hear the music. In fact, it was even worse than that: When the volunteers could see the musicians and hear the music, they became less accurate in picking the winners compared with when they could only see the performers. The music was actually a distraction.

–NPR recently reported

So… Are you ready for QUIET music judgment?


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3 Responses to Judge music at the first note? No! At the first sight!

  1. I want to start with already adding a few things, both to give my own opinions and to introduce some topics that other people can comment about. 🙂
    Firstly I think it’s almost sad that the visual aspect is such a determining factor. Of course, I imagine that in that competition most of the contestants were pretty good and that the differences in the (audio) “quality” of their performances was minimal, especially for people who are not very familiar with judging high level performances.
    Then again, it is clear that everyone is influenced by looks; an extravagant image has contributed to a lot of the popularity of some artists. I’m thinking of Lady Gaga now, but there are tons of other examples.
    Along the same lines, I think that sometimes too much attention is given to music videos. A good music video to accompany a song can give a great effect, but in the end it’s all about the music, at least for me.

  2. I would agree that social judgements are made from both visual and auditory information, but I think it leans more towards the visual information. If you recall from our course Applying for a Job, our teacher mentioned to us that a test was performed, similar to this one about the music, where an experiment was performed where some job interviewers would have to chose which person would be hired for a job based on a video recording of the interviewer, without sound, and compared with those with sound. Surprisingly, they came to the same conclusion, even if the video without sound was played for only a few minutes. This really shows that visual information is more ‘valuable’ for us.

    Isn’t this experiment always done in the Voice of [country] television show to ensure that the judges are biased towards the looks of a person and really focus on the music?

    • Yes, I remember the experiment about the job interviews! Indeed, it’s not just limited to music. Vision is often one of the most important senses, and apparently people use it to judge things even when the eyes aren’t ‘qualified’ to make judgments. My guess is that you will get the same result for cooking: people will judge the taste of the food by its looks.

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