in Business, Creativity, Marketing, Motivation, Music, News, Philosophy, Psychology, Science

Supernormal Stimuli

We like things that are beautiful, right? We just gravitate towards them. Now, what’s beautiful to us is really a matter of taste.

Lately i’ve been reflecting on the connection between beauty and reality. Reality is seldom if ever “perfect” (you know, the asymptote?). When things are too perfect we become suspicious, we feel like they’re lacking in substance. Even here the bar is different for every person.

Take a look at the things around you. What kind of stuff do you surround yourself with? What is it about them that you like? Why?

Romanesco Cabbage

Oh god, them Fibonacci numbers!

What am I getting at here?

I got Taylor Swift’s album “1989” and this version included some recordings of song ideas from her phone. I let some friends and clients hear them. The reactions were almost unanimous. People smiled and laughed but the thing that got me was that they also seemed RELIEVED!

Some said that this reminded them that it’s all about having a good tune but that the right production would lift the songs impact. Others said that they just realized that they’d put the bar a bit too high for what constituted a good idea.

Unrealistic Expectations

You can do it! Come on baby!

I guess it’s only “natural” that we as creative people look, listen and read things that are really polished and well crafted. But what can happen is that we hold ourselves up to that kind of standard too early in the process.

Often we could envision it in our minds but other times we think that it needs to be at that level even when it really doesn’t. Some songs are best suited for just a voice and a half decently tuned piano, that’s all they need.

Takeshi Miyakawa - Fractal 23

Although, fractal design on a drawer. That’s just… Genius!

This phenomena is called supernatural stimuli.

We see it most often when we look at ads and papers where the model’s been photoshopped. In the music industry it’s equivalent would be “auto-tune”. In the real world it would be plastic surgery.

Now, like with all tools these can be used both for good or bad. When they become an unrealistic ideal for people to live up to we could agree that it’s really not productive.

Let’s promise ourselves today to accept our imperfections and find beauty in them. The next time we start doubting that our material is up to scratch we might do well in asking ourselves: “Am I just trying to live up to supernormal stimuli?”.

Deirdre Barret, Ph.D. – Supernormal Stimuli

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