Snippets of recognition

It’s fascinating how little it takes to identify the whole by its parts and—usefully but also troublingly—form opinions that are not that easy to alter as additional info rolls in.

Studies have shown we form initial impressions surprisingly quickly. At Northwestern University researchers found that when they tested listeners by letting them hear tiny samples of music, the listeners were able to classify different styles of music based on samples lasting only 250 milliseconds. A half-second sample added only a little more accuracy, and with a sound sample lasting a second most listeners could classify every style of music they were familiar with. This is an astonishing finding, because it suggests that we use timbre, the character of the sound, to quickly do most of the work when we are identifying musical styles.

from “Quick Impressions,” by Randall Shinn, Deep Glamour, 22 November 2010

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