Friday, April 17, 2009

Susan Boyle

You can watch the feel-good of the week here - it's Susan Boyle wowing them at the British edition of American Idol.

There is a theory of emotion that says we tend to follow an emotion with an opposite emotion of equal intensity. One example often used to illustrate this is a skydiver on her first dive feeling intense fear - followed by intense relief and happiness to have landed safely. The second part of the theory says that the intensity of those emotions wil moderate over time. So, by her 100th skydive, our skydiver will be blase at the start and at the finish.

Apply that to the Boyle video. The judges and audience were snickering at her, rolling their eyes and snorting. They followed the fairly strong dismissive reaction with an equally strong, and opposite, reaction to her singing - standing ovations and extravagent praise.

I was watching the video with a skilled soprano who noted that she has a nice voice - good tone, some power, but her range is limited. Applying the second part of the opponent-process theory, I predict that our response to her singing will moderate over time. She is not a great singer, but she is a pretty terrific story.


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