According to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, the way you look when you perform may be more important than the way you sound.
Researcher Chia-Jung Tsay reports that “People consistently report that sound is the most important source of information in evaluating performance in music. However, the findings demonstrate that people actually depend primarily on visual information when making judgments about music performance.”
Tsay performed seven experiments, designed to test the the relative influence of site versus sound in judging musical performances. In the experiments, the researcher used recordings of actual music competitions and tested how well people could pick the winners, based on audio alone, video alone or video with audio.
Tsay found that people can reliably select the actual winners of live music competitions based on silent video recordings. But neither musical novices or professional musicians can reliably identify the winners of music competitions based on audio recordings of a performance.
“The results highlight our natural, automatic, and nonconscious dependence on visual cues,” concludes Tsay. “The dominance of visual information emerges to the degree that it is overweighted relative to auditory information, even when sound is consciously valued as the core domain content.”
Is this the most depressing scientific research ever?
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