“A Dramatic Demonstration of the Power of Mental Frames”

This demonstration by Simon Singh is an intriguing little exercise of sorts. Hat tip Richard Smith:

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32 comments

  1. Sufferin' Succotash

    That’s funny.
    When I listened to Led Zeppelin I kept hearing “austerity”, “tighten our belts”, “learn to live within our means”, and “the government is just like a family”.

    1. Cows Come Home

      I kept hearing “shared sacrifice,” “can’t tax the rich,” “Hugh Jidette.”

      1. ambrit

        Friends;
        I remember them opening their set with the classic; “The Cheap Labour Song!” And who could forget their version of that Blues classic; “When the Corps of Engineers Sub-Contractor Built Hydraulic System Containment Berm Degrades!”
        Of course, when I play Led Zep records backwards, I get a headache.

  2. Cedric Regula

    I read the words, but it still sounded like MMT to me. Then at the end someone started chanting Paul McCartney is dead, Paul McCartney is dead….

  3. Parvaneh Ferhadi

    What he was demonstrating is a good example of how suggestion works and can be used to manipulate people.It’s used in politics, economics, the MSM, etc all the time.

    However, I couldn’t follow the suggestion that the first part (the demonstration) had anything to do with the second part (the erring scientists). Prima facie the two parts seem to describe similar situations, but are they really similar, the same even? I guess the clip was just to short and one would have to hear his full argument.

    1. jcb

      Completely agree!

      Any (former, in my case) teacher would envy SS’s facility with apt (and humorous) demonstration of scientific abstractions using pop cultural references.(Not to mention some of the wit summoned up on this blog.)

      But I agree with PF that the two examples — Led Zepplin and the Big Bang Theory — are not analogous. The first is an example of mental framing of a particular kind: the dominance of visual, written stimuli conveying meaning over aural stimuli which are in fact meaningless (onomotopoeia).

      The second is really a false analogy, meant to convey that visual evidence of one kind (Hubble observations) refutes theoretical inferences based (presumably) on other empirical evidence. That’s neither true nor false, but it also happens to be the way that new scientific theories supplant older ones.

      Reading over this post I am thinking to myself, “Boy, are you over-literal and humorless!” Ego. Meet. Superego.

      1. jcb

        Add:

        The first is an example of mental framing of a particular kind: the dominance of visual, written stimuli conveying meaning over aural stimuli which are in fact meaningless (onomotopoeia). When the inference of intended actual meaning (playing sounds backward) is ridiculous.

  4. Paul Tioxon

    It is great that the physical sciences are learning the social sciences, especially the socialization of learned behaviors involved with language acquisition. You can only wonder what pictograms the Chinese physicists would put up to extract meaning from these sounds. The set of expectations and behaviors that compose our culture can be projected onto a data stream of sounds to produce information that is familiar to us. Or, we can see commies everywhere, and call it a day.

    1. ambrit

      Mr Tioxin;
      Since the concept of ‘commie’ has been defined down to anyone with a self interest separate from that of the elites, we are indeed everywhere. McCarthy had nothing on this present crop of Tinpot Dictator Wannabes.

      1. Up the Ante

        “Since the concept of ‘commie’ has been defined down to anyone with a self interest separate from that of the elites, we are indeed everywhere.”

        Guerrilla corporatefascism.

        Too many fascists on the horizon.

        lol

  5. K Ackermann

    If you watch this clip backwards, you can actually see Satan and hear him singing regular Stairway to Heaven.

    This was a great clip. If you ever wondered about the enormous amount of blood shed in the name of some invisible diety, then this clip might be a clue.

  6. R Foreman

    I followed a link from this page to 3 different blogs I’ve never seen before, and now all I’m hearing in my head is how jobs creation is more important than deficit reduction.

    Funny thing is the job losses are being caused by all the unpayable debt being hidden by the authorities, debt that should’ve been written off 4 years ago… and people keep saying we need more debt to spur growth, so strange.

    Until they deal with the asset bubble in US Treasuries (something like $8 Trillion), the jobs situation will continue getting worse and we end up like Greece or Egypt.

    1. K Ackermann

      Okay… I’ll bite (I assume you are trying to provide a sample lesson from the above video) Here it goes…

      Have you considered that your viewpoint could be in error? If you are certain that your viewpoint is correct, then maybe you could infect us with your meme so that we too can see things just as wrongly.

      1. R Foreman

        No my comment had nothing to do with the video. Some link on this page led me to several other blogs. What were you saying about my opinion being invalid ?

  7. craazyman

    This gentleman has uncovered a truth he refuses to see and he is deluding his audience through the hypnotic power of his slick persuasion. Rock & roll is the devil’s music. What more proof does one need?

    ha ahhahahhah

    The song sounds pretty good backwards too! Ah, memories of the smell of bong water, keg parties and crackling buds under the flame.

    1. ambrit

      Dear craazyman;
      Ever try ‘bong vodka’ with medicinal oxygen for the shotgun hit? Better life through science indeed. I’m just glad I survived those days reasonably intact. (I was not a “permissive” parent, either. Our kids hated it when I unmasked one of their ‘cover’ stories. “No! You can not go to the movies with those ‘friends’ of yours! They’re all dopers, and they’ll stab you in the back the first time anything even starts to go wrong. And I was right on that score.)

  8. LeeAnne

    Simon Singh -glad you mentioned the hairdo. I guess that’s for Western cred.

    Reminds me of the guys who wrote Freakeconomics: Let them eat cake and listen to crap. Just get their attention -they’ll believe anything. Why? Because there’s nothing there -products of a corrupt education system.

    Those freakeconomics fellows seem to be making a good living at it. I see the attributions often.

    1. jeff

      Exactly,

      How can you take anyone seriously that self mutilates
      with a piece of White Trash style like that?

  9. Philip Pilkington

    Very good. Although Singh could push this demonstration further and go so far as this is exactly how we make sense of everything.

    I.e. All patterns of thought/language/ideas etc. come out of a sort of ‘primal soup’ of nonsense and it is only very gradually that people, as a culture with shared patterns of meaning, begin to structure there world through communication with one another that is ever-increasing in its accuracy.

    But then that’s a bit trippy. And we wouldn’t want to accuse Singh of being a social constructivist.

    1. Just Tired

      I think Singh is on to something…I saw this on a Tea Party website:

      Did you know:?

      That the words “race car” spelled backwards still spells “race car”?

      That “eat” is the only word that, if you take the 1st letter and move it
      to the last, spells its past tense, ate”?

      And if you rearrange the letters in “illegal immigrants,” and add just a
      few more letters, it spells: “Go home you free-loading, benefit-grabbing, resource-sucking,
      baby-making, violent, non-English-speaking assholes, and take those other hairy-faced,
      sandal-wearing, bomb-making, camel-riding, goat-loving, raggedy-ass bastards with you?

      How weird is that?

  10. Susan the other

    Again from my memory fog bank: Whales revise their words every year. Researchers listening to migrating whales discovered many years back that every year the whales had modified their vocabulary sounds, squeaks and rumbles. Perhaps modified to fit the new season? Whereas human words trace a lineage back thousands of years and do seem to maintain a core meaning, and even a core sound, over vast timeframes. And birdsong doesn’t evolve much at all. Just thinking… not sure what point I’m making. That mental frames are an intermediate step to communicating. Before a frame something needs to be fairly obvious and materially significant, the recognition of which is innate.

    1. Rex

      You say whales revise their words, then you say birds do not. It is probably not words as much as songs. From what I have learned the songs of birds do evolve every year. Why shouldn’t they? But the interesting thing is that the birds learn and share the essence of the new collective song of the year. As the birds get older, though, they are stuck with the songs they learned while young. The younger birds continue to evolve the current song but the older birds are stuck with what they sang while young.

      Wish I could remember where I got that information. Probably Nova or Nature on PBS.

      Now think of ourselves. Some current songs I hear on the radio appeal to me, but I can’t remember much of the lyrics and only have a tentative grasp of the melody. On the other hand, most songs from 40 yrs ago I can still sing along with. I think the loss of the ability to absorb the new songs began when I hit about age 40.

      If you are over 40 you probably will know what I am talking about. If not, file this information away, and you will later.

      Birds, whales, people. Seems we are all the same with our songs. Why? – To get laid is a good possibility. Or just to be cohesive with the young group taking control. Some evolutionary program is working, and must be pretty old for many mammals to share.

  11. Neal Deesit

    “people, as a culture with shared patterns of meaning, begin to structure there [sic] world through communication with one another that is ever-increasing in its accuracy

    Except when inaccuracy is feature, not a bug.

  12. John Merryman

    For someone who actually knows what they are talking about, here is the view of one of the chief designers of the Hubble Space telescope, on his dealings with cosmologists and how mental bias fills in the gaps in their thinking:

    http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/2007/9/modern-cosmology-science-or-folktale

    “Where Do We Stand Today?

    Big Bang cosmology is not a single theory; rather, it is five separate theories constructed on top of one another. The ground floor is a theory, historically but not fundamentally rooted in general relativity, to explain the redshifts—this is Expansion, which happily also accounts for the cosmic background radiation. The second floor is Inflation—needed to solve the horizon and “flatness” problems of the Big Bang. The third floor is the Dark Matter hypothesis required to explain the existence of contemporary visible structures, such as galaxies and clusters, which otherwise would never condense within the expanding fireball. The fourth floor is some kind of description for the “seeds” from which such structure is to grow. And the fifth and topmost floor is the mysterious Dark Energy, needed to allow for the recent acceleration of cosmic expansion indicated by the supernova observations. Thus Dark Energy could crumble, leaving the rest of the building intact. But if the Expansion floor collapsed, the entire edifice above it would come crashing down. Expansion is a moderately well-supported hypothesis, consistent with the cosmic background radiation, with the helium abundance and with the ages inferred for the oldest stars and star clusters in our neighborhood. However, finding more direct evidence for Expansion must be of paramount importance.

    In the 1930s, Richard Tolman proposed such a test, really good data for which are only now becoming available. Tolman calculated that the surface brightness (the apparent brightness per unit area) of receding galaxies should fall off in a particularly dramatic way with redshift—indeed, so dramatically that those of us building the first cameras for the Hubble Space Telescope in the 1980s were told by cosmologists not to worry about distant galaxies, because we simply wouldn’t see them. Imagine our surprise therefore when every deep Hubble image turned out to have hundreds of apparently distant galaxies scattered all over it (as seen in the first image in this piece). Contemporary cosmologists mutter about “galaxy evolution,” but the omens do not necessarily look good for the Tolman test of Expansion at high redshift.

    In its original form, an expanding Einstein model had an attractive, economic elegance. Alas, it has since run into serious difficulties, which have been cured only by sticking on some ugly bandages: inflation to cover horizon and flatness problems; overwhelming amounts of dark matter to provide internal structure; and dark energy, whatever that might be, to explain the seemingly recent acceleration. A skeptic is entitled to feel that a negative significance, after so much time, effort and trimming, is nothing more than one would expect of a folktale constantly re-edited to fit inconvenient new observations.

    The historian of science Daniel Boorstin once remarked: “The great obstacle to discovering the shape of the Earth, the continents and the oceans was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge. Imagination drew in bold strokes, instantly serving hopes and fears, while knowledge advanced by slow increments and contradictory witnesses.” Acceptance of the current myth, if myth it is, could likewise hold up progress in cosmology for generations to come.”

  13. Masonboro

    One could argue this is the role of FOX/talk radio ; establish a biased frame of reference into which bad data can be fed. Maybe that is the role of all advertising/propaganda (religion?).

    Humans are easily manipulated if you know how.

    Jim

  14. RBHoughton

    After Hubble revealed the red shift of other galaxies, another scientist discovered microwave radiation coming from everywhere, and the two things underpin the big bang theory.

    It overlooks Vera Rubin’s revelation of a dense field of matter surrounding galaxies (possibly a field from the polar jets of the central black hole) which rotates so fast it drags the outer solar systems along as fast as the central ones.

    When scientists do the sums to explain expansion the necessary mass and energy is inadequate and they necessarily invented the concepts of dark matter and dark energy to make the equations balance. When the CMB was discovered we did not know about dark matter. If it was discovered today, its a nice point whether it would be used as evidence of the ‘not-so-dark matter’ encircling us or of a big bang.

    This all seems to be more patterning in our brains.

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