Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday Salon 21 September 2008: The Science of Brainwashing

Well, Sunday Saloners, I am still reading the Science of Dr Who, and still enthralled. It's so chock-full of engaging little snippets. For instance, in chapter 24 it described 'top-down processing'. I've heard of this before but never encountered such a succinct description of what it means. It is the tendency of people to see what they are told to see (as opposed to the information we glean directly from our senses).


A classic example is found with the lyrics of the Led Zeppelin track stairway to heaven. If you scroll down to the bottom of this Wikipedia entry (where it says backmasking controversy) you will be able to hear and see 'top-down' processing in action in your own head.

1. Play the lyrics forward.
2. Without reading anything else on the page play the lyrics backwards - they sound like gobbledgook.
3. Now read the supposed backwards lyrics in the box below and play the lyrics backwards again - and now you'll hear the message 'as clear as a bell' says Chris French of Goldsmith's College in the book.

Fascinating stuff - and I'm immediately thinking of other examples of 'top-down' processing in politics, art, literature...the list is endless. Acts such as Derren Brown's rely on 'top-down' processing and, as it says in the book, 'we seem to be endlessly impressed by our own gullability.'
I think that another word for 'top-down' processing is brainwashing.

I am going to spend the rest of the day in my shed. After I finish this one I am going to dip into this delectable little pile (which are just some of the more recent additions to the ever-expanding Hodmandod collection).

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14 Comments:

Blogger gautami tripathy said...

Clare, do you know right now I am listening to Stairway to Heaven. Now onwards, I won't be able to listen to it without thinking of your post.

LOL!

I like that pile of books!

Interesting blogs, links and books

Sun Sep 21, 02:49:00 pm  
Blogger Table Talk said...

Goodness, Clare, where are you going to start with that lot? The Chabon is on my list as well but I won't get to it this week.

Sun Sep 21, 03:06:00 pm  
OpenID justareadingfool said...

Clare, I have to add that book, The Science of Dr. Who to my ever-expanding TBR pile. As for your other books, oooh, ahhhh. That's all I have to say about that. ;)

Sun Sep 21, 06:38:00 pm  
Blogger Susangalique said...

the secrets of spirits bay looks real good.

Sun Sep 21, 06:49:00 pm  
Anonymous cfr said...

Is it top-down processing that L'Oreal is trying to use in advertising its Revitalift moisturiser? They don't get it too right though. Enter Andie McDowell, obviously botoxed from the eyebrows up, allowing her to frown and create two crevices at the top of her nose. These are deep wrinkles we are told. Apply the product and oh, it's all smoothed out. (New shot of McDowell smiling and definitely not frowning, hence the disappearance of the previous deep set wrinkles.)

Top down processing must be what advertisers survive on. But, LOL, they can still get it wrong on delivery of the message.

You have me intrigued with that book, I must say.

Sun Sep 21, 08:04:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Heh. Yes, Gautami, it's changed how I listen to that too!

Table Talk - Yes, a difficult one, isn't it? I feel like a child in a sweetshop. I am rather tempted to stuff them all in at once, and I do keep flicking open the pages...

Justa - Tis good, I have to say. It seemed a strange idea to me until I started reading, but now I feel I've learnt such a lot! And yes, that's pretty much how I feel about my TBR pile too!

S - Yes, that was sent to me especially from New Zealand, I'm dying to read it - it looks excellent.

CFR: that sounds like whatever is the opposite to top down...bottoms up?!

Sun Sep 21, 10:13:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fascinating stuff indeed - I'm a Doctor Who fan - I'll have to get this book.

Margaret at BooksPlease

Sun Sep 21, 11:13:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

I'll be very interested to see what you think Margaret!

Mon Sep 22, 07:29:00 am  
Blogger stu said...

And yet there isn't enough brainwashing in the world to convince me that the Rolf Harris cover of Stairway to Heaven is remotely listenable. The Rodrigo y Gabriella or Stanley Jordan versions, possibly, but never that.

Mon Sep 22, 11:16:00 am  
Blogger jem said...

Nothing more delicious than a book pile - some good ones there, some I've read and like, one I didn't, and a few I'm interested in checking out. Happy reading Clare!

Mon Sep 22, 12:19:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Stu: I have just been listening to Rolf Harris's rendition of Stairway to heaven on Youtube complete with that board-thing. Very funny! I shall not be providing a link, but thank you so much for pointing this out.

Jem: thank you. Of course I am now intrigued which is which.

Mon Sep 22, 07:55:00 pm  
Blogger Kebabette said...

Hi, sounds like a great read especially when I am in the throes of Dr Who love (it's playing here on NZ tv on Sunday nights). Coincidentally, on my current "to be read" pile is a fan memoir called "Dalek I love you".

Love your book pile, I've gotten into photographing mine - it's always a triumph of hope over actual reading time.

Tue Sep 23, 08:21:00 am  
Blogger Anne S said...

Different versions of Stairway to Heaven were a feature of an Australian TV show called The Money or the Gun hosted by Andrew Denton back in the early 1990s. This is where the Rolf Harris version came from.

Tue Sep 23, 11:51:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Ha, Kebabette, pleased to meet another fan! That fan book sounds good. I wonder if anyone's written 'I dalek' yet? A gap in the market, perhaps! I'm very impressed with your reading piles - and a good way to store them on flicker.

And Anne S - thank you! Rolf Harris's take now takes on an entirely new meaning. That programme looks hilarious. I especially like the title of the interview segment 'Enough Rope'. Brilliant.

Tue Sep 23, 02:23:00 pm  

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