Why should taste be subjective when sight isn't? - Page 10

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Martin

#91: Post by Martin »

zin1953 wrote: I'm not trying to argue, but I am trying to see where you draw lines . . .
The line is fuzzy and wiggly. Taste (as in what do we like) is definitely cultural and is best understood in the domains of social science. Such preferences can be quantified with all sorts of "scientific" (read mathematical/statistical methods.) "Science," per se has little to offer, unless you are looking for biological predilections for flavors --sweet, bitter, etc.--, but not likely to explain why some people prefer a "full city" roast and some like Starbucks.

"Automatically agree" is your construction, not mine. I like hazelnuts and roast and eat them. I could be persuaded to like hazelnut coffee, but choose not to for socio-cultural reasons. Likewise, I really enjoy an aged Valtellina goat cheese that some family members liken to aged Nike's.

On average (copping out to fuzzy and wiggly) I'll pay most attention to critics and expertise in those domains in which I have the least expertise. Where I am an expert myself, the list of critics to whom I defer gets shorter. I may have misstated the actual number of coffee experts I pay attention to. The actual number is not 4. It's 137. You are currently at the mean, but rising. :wink:

Regards.

cfsheridan

#92: Post by cfsheridan »

First off, I'm jumping into this one a bit late, and without fully digesting absolutely all of the discussion, though I read and skimmed all the post...

/disclaimer

One point that hasn't been addressed, or has been loosely addressed is the evolution of human heuristics and biases coupled with the cultural development of language. I'm not an expert in all of this, but have dabbled enough to offer a view that human development both biologically and culturally (focused after the development of spoken and written language) have marked differences between the senses of sight and taste/smell.

The evolution of our language and culture rapidly communicated a SHARED understanding of objectivity around the sense of sight, as it is fairly easy for the human animal to express and obtain consensus on the reality of what we see. Hearing, and language/culture has also developed more rapidly to consensus than taste/smell.

Think of your unconscious reactions to sights and sounds vs. smells and taste. How does your mind react to smells versus reactions to sights or sounds? Which of them can more easily trigger emotional reactions that you may not quickly name, and can even less quickly share with your fellow humans?

I understand Jim's argument for objectivity, and I think it is possible to calibrate different people to a shared set of standards for specific exercises. That said, it is a rigorous undertaking, as evidenced by the lengths to which sensory judges go in every exercise to repeat the calibration.

One could argue that this calibration is working against the natural biases and memory triggers our brains exhibit with respect to smells and tastes. Our brains and their built up biases and heuristics act differently to these senses.

Add to that our communication vehicle we now use--the typed word, which works against milennia of evolution of our human brains and their biases. We miss all of the signaling for which our non-rational brains have evolved to handle the natural environment. We "rational" humans have outpaced the ability for our non-rational selves to keep up in many ways. Hence the difficulty for us to communicate these thoughts and senses and feelings.

Like any endeavor, like our coffee journeys, the more questions we ask, the more we reveal how much we have yet to learn. Not a reason to stop, but a cautionary tale to ever declare that we have reached any objective truth. The observer cannot help but have an influence on what he or she observes, as the very act of observation changes the system.

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cfsheridan

#93: Post by cfsheridan »

Apropos, from the lastest post on Daniel Humphries' blog
"Smell is of all senses by far the most evocative: perhaps because we have no vocabulary for it - nothing but a few poverty-stricken approximations to describe the whole vast complexity of odor - and therefore the scent, unnamed and unnameable, remains pure of association; it cannot be called upon again and again, and blunted, by the use of a words; and so it strikes afresh every time, bringing with it all the circumstances of its first perception. This is particularly true when a considerable period of time has elapsed."

-Maturin, in Patrick O'Brian's Post Captain

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another_jim (original poster)
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#94: Post by another_jim (original poster) »

On taste as a cultural versus an objective phenomenon.

I'm a sociologist, not a physicist, so I reject this whole way of framing the discussion. I don't live in a vast physical universe of empty spaces where we're a tiny patch of interesting chemical reactions, but in a vast cultural universe of empty celebrity chatter where science and the notion of atoms is a tiny patch of interesting discussion. Since most culture is as arid as empty space; the question is not whether taste is cultural, but how to make it a less arid patch of culture.

I suggested borrowing more from the language of science and less from the language of Brittany Spears ("gee, ya know, I'm really into all this coffee stuff"). Thankfully, everyone seems OK with the Brittany part, but the science part is creating misunderstandings.

A bit of wonkish history: Bacon wrote the Novum Organum around 1600, 20 years before the invention of modern science, advocating the use of observation and evidence in understanding nature. He was not being controversial, but was summarizing what educated people had been saying more and more in the previous 200 years. This renaissance objectivity had started not in science, but in law and trade, where the use of factual evidence to settle disputes, rather than the status of the disputants, or the preservation of social harmony and state interests, had done a lot to improve life. Bacon was advocating that this "reign of evidence" be adopted to all areas of life, including nature.

My recommendation is more Baconian than scientific. We need to think about what sort of evidence is appropriate to discussing whether a coffee or shot of espresso tastes good.

It's clear that when something goes wrong with an espresso shot, we speak very objectively. We explain an awful shot by the fact that it channeled, or that it was pulled at 210F, etc etc. We don't have a discussion of the cultural immersions of the people drinking it. In effect, we already have a common understanding that treats shot mechanics as an area where there is an undoubted and partially known connection between preparation and taste. The same undoubted and partially know connection exists between the taste of coffee and the place and way it was grown, and the way it was prepped, transported, roasted and blended. So when talking about why some coffees and blends taste good while others do not, we can profit by looking at this evidence first, and worrying about people's varying tastes and expertise later.
Jim Schulman

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Arpi

#95: Post by Arpi »

Interesting. Has anybody thought about preferences being unconscious?

An example. In general, rye bread is preferred in Germany. But the evolution of that preference seems to come from the fact that it is very cold over there, and because of the weather, rye grass is more suitable to grow. Once they make up their mind, it is hard to change it.

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Psyd
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#96: Post by Psyd »

Taste is subjective, it really is. Tastes, however are not. Taste is cultural, Tastes are scientific.
And folk approach things in all kinds of different ways, as evidenced by the number a ratio of mental health care providers to mental health care purveyors. Some folk arr artistic in their endeavours, some are analytical, some are laissez faire.
If we all always like all the same things, there would always be a line.

But to attack the scientific approach is just ignorance. Analytical minds look to the variables, and try to reduce each result to an adjustment of each individual variable. This is normal for that kind of person (and you should be grateful, it was that kind of person that made the computer that you're sitting at possible) and quantifying those results on a scale of 'good' to 'not good' (with any number of metrics along the path) is necessary to have any kind of a reference.
One must keep in mind, especially in this varied and wise group, that because it is not your way is no indication of it's validity. If some method sounds odd, strange or wrong, there is just as good a chance that you just aren't able to understand or appreciate it, it as it contains flaws.
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itsallaroundyou

#97: Post by itsallaroundyou »

Psyd wrote:But to attack the scientific approach is just ignorance. Analytical minds look to the variables, and try to reduce each result to an adjustment of each individual variable. This is normal for that kind of person (and you should be grateful, it was that kind of person that made the computer that you're sitting at possible) and quantifying those results on a scale of 'good' to 'not good' (with any number of metrics along the path) is necessary to have any kind of a reference.
+1
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cfsheridan

#98: Post by cfsheridan »

Jim,

To clarify, I am not disagreeing with the approach to put more objectivity into tasting. I was trying, albeit poorly, to describe the cultural AND physiological barriers and resistance to the approach.

My view is that we are more influenced by our experiences and by our physiology with taste and smell respecting objective descriptions than we are with sight. Not something that cannot be overcome, but the hill is higher and requires more repeated conscious effort.

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Marshall

#99: Post by Marshall »

cfsheridan wrote:My view is that we are more influenced by our experiences and by our physiology with taste and smell respecting objective descriptions than we are with sight.
Ever go shopping with a woman? :D I am convinced that, except for trained artists, women can distinguish at least 10 times as many colors as men.

I once took a UCLA Extension course on visual aspects of film. I was stunned that in 40 years of watching movies and television I had never noticed that art directors coordinate the colors of set decor and the actors' costumes. Or that each film has a specific color palate. I never fail to notice these now. Eyes (or more accurately "brains") require as much training as palates.
Marshall
Los Angeles

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Psyd
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#100: Post by Psyd »

"Some art directors coordinate the colors of set decor and the actors' costumes. Or that some films have a specific color palate."
Italics mine.

Corrected that for you. I've worked my share of feature films, and while I was just a sound mixer, I got to see every stick of set and costume on each.
Some Directors will make a costume color decision based on set/lighting/mood/, some costumers will make a color decision based on set/direction/lighting (although, quite often the lighting is completed on set, along with its design) and sometimes a set dresser will get clues from costume/Key Grip/Director, etc.
The thing is that it's a collaborative art form. much the same way that theatre is. The goal is to set the mood, and often colour and lighting is a huge part of it. Go see 'The Girl with the Pearl Earring'. The Gaffer reproduced the lighting form the period, using Jan's paintings as a guide. The sets were constructed using the paintings as a guide as well. You 'll have to see it twice. Once where you just stare at the lighting, and again to get, you know, plot, and acting and such.

Be careful of such things, though. Once you see the zipper on the monster, the scary movies aren't so scary anymore. Quite a bit of what we do is supposed to massage your subconscious into a time, a mood, and expectation, or even a location, without you being quite aware that you are being manipulated. Trust me, unless you're interested in following that road professionally, it will just ruin your appreciation of such arts.

In much the same way that I advocate staying at the coffee level that you are at if you really like it. Nothing but tigers and pitfalls down that road to the god shot! ; >
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