Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Flawed Perception

I was sitting in class the other day, and we got into a discussion on "perfect pitch".  It was following an explanation of how our ears detect sound.  I learned that for anyone who isn't tone deaf, the sensors in our ears know exactly what a note is.  So, all those out there who are not tone deaf have the physical equipment to have "perfect pitch".  Yet, only a tiny fraction of the population does.  The vast majority of us can only tell relative pitch.

It was found that those who have perfect pitch have a lot of difficulty (if they are not just outright unable) to recognize a tune in a different key.

The Prof was alluding to the disconnect between what our bodies are equipped to sense and what we cognitively sense.   He didn't elaborate on this, so my mind wandered.  I thought about the baw-gaw illusion.  That is, when you can see the speaker's mouth, you hear one sound, but when you cover the speaker's face, you "hear" another even though nothing has changed.  It's creepy.

We are processing information before we are even aware that we're processing.  In the case of perfect pitch, our bodies seem to be withholding information.  In the case of the baw-gaw illusion, we have one sense superceding another. So what is an objective observer? the best observer?  Well, I'm not a realist, in the strict sense of the term, so ...

My mind wandered further, and I starting dreaming up the evolutionary processes behind these psychological quirks.  Of what were these the consequences OR what consequences of these psychological phenomena, and what were the circumstances that made them flourish? (Visions of people running into interesting deaths because they couldn't recognize tunes in different keys scroll through my mind.)
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