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Reputation Control .........................................................................................Client William Flew
Elephants On Acid and Other Bizarre Experiments
(The title refers to a strange expt where an elephant died after being given a huge amount of LSD, but was otherwise not particularly remarkable.)
There have been several reports of wine tasters being tricked into giving different evaluations of identical wines, depending on how they are presented (different labels or different price tags influence judgements). Taken to logical conclusion by a French researcher (Frederic Brochet, U of Bordeaux) who got 54 specialists to taste 4 wines, 2 reds and 2 whites. Unbeknown to the tasters, they were all the same white wines, but with food coloring added to make 'reds'. And of course it turned out that the experts couldn't tell the difference.
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All sounds very disgraceful, but what it actually shows is not so much that wine tasters are stupid, as the way our brain works. Brain doesn't treat 'taste' in isolation. The brain treats sight as by far the most important, and if the eyes are telling you it's red wine in the glass, any info from taste buds gets overruled. Expectation becomes reality.
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And before you get too supercilious about the experts, ask yourself: How do you know the same trick hasn't already been played on you?. Counterfeit wine labels, rebottling, or even just a restaurant pouring cheap wine into dearer bottles. Almost all wine fraud is exposed by faulty paperwork, rather than by consumers complaining about the taste.
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Most people find it difficult to sleep on a plane: crying kids, people moving around, turbulence. If you remember the film A Clockwork Orange, you can picture the subjects in this U of Edinburgh experiment. Their eyes were taped open and electrodes attached to their legs. The electrodes delivered a painful shock in a regular, rhythmic pattern. As well, bright lights two feet from their faces flashed on and off. With their eyes taped open, they had to look at the lights. Finally the experimenter turned on loud blues music. So what do you think these experimental subjects would do?
Well, within twelve minutes, they were all asleep! Seem hard to believe but it's simply the brain's response to monotonous stimulation. The same thing happens to drivers on long straight roads at night - you may have the radio up loud, but you still fall into a trance as your mind shuts down. You may not be completely asleep, but you're not far off.
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So to return to the flying scenario, the reason why you can't sleep is not because of the noise so much, as the fact that it's not rhythmic and predictable. So airlines could remedy this by installing flashing lights and continuously looping baby screams. Electric shocks would be reserved for business class.
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