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#15085 - 04/11/11 09:09 AM About Taste
ryck Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Okanagan Valley
Jon's tea thread seems about to go down a "non-tea route" on the topic of taste. Ergo, a new thread...with an opening question "Is taste more about acquired prejudices than anything else?"

I ask while recalling an event that happened when my oldest daughter was about eight years old. A young man went by with hair done in a number of very tall, very orange spikes. Someone close by muttered something about: "What do these kids think they're proving and blah blah blah."

What got me was my daughter's response. She didn't see anything except the orange which she thought was really nice colour.

ryck

And how could we begin without words from mark Twain:

"There are no standards of taste in wine, cigars, poetry, prose, etc. Each man's own taste is the standard, and a majority vote cannot decide for him or in any slightest degree affect the supremacy of his own standard." -Mark Twain, 1895


Edited by ryck (04/11/11 09:11 AM)
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#15086 - 04/11/11 09:37 AM Re: About Taste [Re: ryck]
grelber Offline


Registered: 08/05/09
Loc: North of 49th ||
With Twain's quote you may just have done yourself out of a debate. tongue

When it's said that something is an acquired taste, it generally means that one's attitude or taste buds or sense of smell (or ...) require "educating" through experience. Certain tastes (literally) are warnings that something isn't quite right, is toxic, and the like. Many of the latter entail a genetic predisposition which, unless and until it's overcome (assuming that it's not fatal), considerable experience. The most clearcut example is the class of alkaloids, which are extremely bitter and usually deter all but the most determined.
Some tastes have a maturational component, changing from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, often without the need for experience. Remember your distaste of various veggies, the refusal of which at the dinner table often ended badly?
Who would have thought that willow bark would have so many medicinal uses. And what might have possessed the poor shmuck who first tried chewing it?
It's an interesting and intriguing world.

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#15087 - 04/11/11 02:23 PM Re: About Taste [Re: grelber]
alternaut Offline

Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Originally Posted By: grelber
Some tastes have a maturational component, changing from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, often without the need for experience. Remember your distaste of various veggies, the refusal of which at the dinner table often ended badly?

I remember it vividly: my father positively relished the pronounced bitter taste of (overcooked) belgian endives, something we kids could really do without. And while I still don't like to overcook those veggies for that reason, I must say that with the years 'bitter' in general has grown on me. A good example is the increasing number of dry-hopped IPAs and APAs turned out by US microbreweries. To me, these are a perfect match for (deliciously stinky) Wisconsin Beer Kaese, but I'll admit that this may be an acquired taste. laugh

So I have to agree that this phenomenon of changing tastes is an excellent argument to try previously disliked items again at a later age: you might appreciate the re-acquaintance. tongue
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#15088 - 04/11/11 04:15 PM Re: About Taste [Re: ryck]
tacit Offline


Registered: 08/03/09
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
I think a lot depends on what you mean by "taste."

If you're talking to physical sensations, such as smell and taste, then these are largely learned things. Not entirely learned; for someone equipped with a normal range of sense organs, certain things will always be unpleasant (hydrogen sulfide, ammonia) and certain things will always be pleasant (sugar, honey) because those sensations carry survival value. Our ancestors are the ones who were repulsed by the smell of hydrogen sulfide from rotten food and attracted to the sugar of high-calorie food, and our tastes are programmed accordingly. But there's still room in there for learning; I never used to like sushi, and now I love it.

If you're talking about tastes in hair or fashion or social mannerisms, that stuff is all 100% learned. High-heeled shoes were invented for men, not women; yet today's tastes disapprove of men who wear them (and approve of women who do, in spite of the fact that it's nearly impossible to appear graceful while wearing them). Tastes in hair styles vary all over the map; orange Mohawks are just fine with me, but I've always considered the mullet to be absolutely ridiculous. I can remember a time when the idea of a man wearing an earring was shocking, and nowadays you see investment bankers with earrings and body piercings.
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#15091 - 04/11/11 05:53 PM Re: About Taste [Re: grelber]
ryck Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Okanagan Valley
Originally Posted By: grelber
With Twain's quote you may just have done yourself out of a debate. tongue

....only if everyone agrees that Twain is right.

Although I posted the quote, I'll be the first to question its wisdom. He seems to be saying "To each his own" and I have no trouble agreeing with that thought. However, it seems to me that there are things that can generally be called tasteless, when measured against a "standard" of the "majority vote".

The "standard" is likely a moveable line such as the determination of obscenity is some jurisdictions being based on comparison with community standards. I'm pretty sure we've all said, at one time or another, "That comment was in poor taste."

Originally Posted By: grelber
Some tastes have a maturational component, changing from childhood to adolescence to adulthood...

No argument here......I think about my youngest daughter who, as a child, would never eat anything except the plainest foods possible. Her idea of a hamburger was meat and a bun - nothing else. Today she is an incredible cook always experimenting with various spices and condiments. She's already had things that still cause me to go "Eeeeeoooo".

ryck


Edited by ryck (04/11/11 05:53 PM)
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#15093 - 04/11/11 05:57 PM Re: About Taste [Re: tacit]
ryck Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Okanagan Valley
Originally Posted By: tacit
But there's still room in there for learning; I never used to like sushi, and now I love it.

You're a step ahead of me...I still can't get my head around raw fish. And oysters...not much chance. Escargot? Less chance. However, you can chalk snails up to the fact that it's a French dish and, let's face it, there's not much the French palate won't reject.

Think truffles. "Hey, what have you got there Pierre?"

"I dunno. It's something the pigs dug up."

"Really? Let eat it."

Originally Posted By: tacit
If you're talking about tastes in hair or fashion or social mannerisms, that stuff is all 100% learned.

I agree in reference to a global view of things like style. However, I think there are people who have an innate "sense of taste". Those are the people who just seem to know that "this goes with that" - the folks who others always comment on as "having great taste".

ryck


Edited by ryck (04/11/11 05:58 PM)
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#15125 - 04/14/11 09:12 PM Re: About Taste [Re: ryck]
MG2009 Offline


Registered: 08/05/09
"Taste" gives ourselves permission to look down on others.

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#15135 - 04/15/11 11:58 AM Re: About Taste [Re: ryck]
tacit Offline


Registered: 08/03/09
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
Originally Posted By: ryck

I agree in reference to a global view of things like style. However, I think there are people who have an innate "sense of taste". Those are the people who just seem to know that "this goes with that" - the folks who others always comment on as "having great taste".

ryck


I don't think that's innate. I think it's more the Rule of 10,000 Hours in operation.

There are people who, for whatever reason, pay attention to fashion, think about fashion from a young age. There was an interesting podcast I was listening to a while ago that basically said there's no such thing as innate genius; that people who are brilliant at something, whether it be painting or music or engineering or fashion, are brilliant simply because of the focus they give it and the amount of attention they devote to it.

The podcast proposed that anyone who spends ten thousand hours thinking about and doing something will become brilliant at it, whatever it may be. That "innate" sense of fashion or "innate" talent for architecture isn't really innate at all; it's the consequence of spending years and years focused on that thing, living it and breathing it and sleeping it.

Often, we do this when we're children, before we're really even consciously aware of it. The kids who spend a lot of focus on being popular become popular; the kids who spend their focus thinking about math become good at math. Differences in temperament ad situation might tend to make some people want to focus on one thing over another, but anyone who spends ten thousand hours paying attention to something will become very good indeed at it.
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#15136 - 04/15/11 12:36 PM Re: About Taste [Re: tacit]
grelber Offline


Registered: 08/05/09
Loc: North of 49th ||
However, savants (idiots savants, prior to the PC revolution) are a different kettle of fish.
They require no learning (as we generally/commonly understand the term) and yet are capable, each according to his/her own "gift", of performing mathematical, musical, or other feats which are truly astounding.
Dance, Rain Man, dance.

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#15137 - 04/15/11 12:57 PM Re: About Taste [Re: grelber]
jchuzi Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
An old comparison of talent and genius:

TALENT does easily what others find difficult.
GENIUS does what talent finds impossible.
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#15138 - 04/15/11 02:24 PM Re: About Taste [Re: tacit]
ryck Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Okanagan Valley
Originally Posted By: tacit
....that basically said there's no such thing as innate genius; that people who are brilliant at something, whether it be painting or music or engineering or fashion, are brilliant simply because of the focus they give it and the amount of attention they devote to it

That's an interesting idea.

I'll have to think about it for a while, however the flipside might explain a fellow I knew who was an absolutely brilliant technologist but the very worst dresser ever - according to any standard one might want to pick.

The flipside is that, rather than 10,000 hours, my friend's total time spent thinking about fashion was not likely more than 10 minutes. Choices were more about what he needed to wear, not whether the items went together.... "Gee, I need to wear a tie today. Oh, here's one" ...often resulting in the ghastliest combinations imaginable.

ryck
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#15139 - 04/15/11 03:37 PM Re: About Taste [Re: tacit]
artie505 Online


Registered: 08/04/09
> [...] people who are brilliant at something, whether it be painting or music or engineering or fashion, are brilliant simply because of the focus they give it and the amount of attention they devote to it.

That sounds like somebody wimping out.

Lack of hand-eye coordination pervades every aspect of my life (It's almost a miracle that I get the booze into the glass when I tend bar.), and no amount of practice will overcome that innate inability.

And, conversely, how many kids have you seen who can draw from the instant they're given a pencil or who are good in all sports from the second they learn how the game is played?

10,000 hours can certainly hone ability into brilliance, but I don't think it can develop non-ability into anything more than a salable commodity, e.g. Tiny Tim.
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#15143 - 04/15/11 04:51 PM Re: About Taste [Re: tacit]
dkmarsh Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09

Quote:
...anyone who spends ten thousand hours paying attention to something will become very good indeed at it.

This explains why Americans are so skilled at watching television. laugh
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#15156 - 04/15/11 11:22 PM Re: About Taste [Re: dkmarsh]
macnerd10 Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
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#15163 - 04/16/11 06:54 AM Re: About Taste [Re: tacit]
Virtual1 Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Iowa
Originally Posted By: tacit
There are people who, for whatever reason, pay attention to fashion, think about fashion from a young age. There was an interesting podcast I was listening to a while ago that basically said there's no such thing as innate genius; that people who are brilliant at something, whether it be painting or music or engineering or fashion, are brilliant simply because of the focus they give it and the amount of attention they devote to it.


While that may be part of it, I don't think that's the most important factor. Most people's minds are tradeoffs. Good at this, bad at that, good at this, bad at that. I know I'm that way. I have the memory of a goldfish and the artistic skills of a concrete block. No matter how much time I invest in subjects that require either of those skills, I won't amount to anything. On the other hand, I've been very focused, analytical, and mathematical from an early age, so it's not surprising I gravitated toward repair, electronics, and later computers. I think the reason people that are good at xyz were seen to focus on it and spend time at it from an early age were doing so because it's something they already had a knack for, and it made those activities involving and quickly rewarding. Applied "correlation is not causation", I believe you're confusing the cause with the effect. Being naturally good at something can be its own reward and driving force at an early age, developing into a growing circle of being good at something, and improving your skills on it.

So I believe that truly successful people are those that identify their strengths at an early age, and aggressively capitalize on them, not those that randomly pick a venue and are the most aggressive overall with it.
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#15174 - 04/16/11 12:37 PM Re: About Taste [Re: grelber]
tacit Offline


Registered: 08/03/09
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
Originally Posted By: grelber
However, savants (idiots savants, prior to the PC revolution) are a different kettle of fish.
They require no learning (as we generally/commonly understand the term) and yet are capable, each according to his/her own "gift", of performing mathematical, musical, or other feats which are truly astounding.
Dance, Rain Man, dance.


I'm not quite sure that's true. Savants may not have to learn, say, musical skill the way someone who isn't a savant does, but nobody is born knowing how to play a piano! A savant who can play a piano the first time he sits in front of it has watched others play and has learned just from that--with an astonishing degree of fidelity--but he has still learned it.

Originally Posted By: artie505
Lack of hand-eye coordination pervades every aspect of my life (It's almost a miracle that I get the booze into the glass when I tend bar.), and no amount of practice will overcome that innate inability.


Sure, for physical skills there's some level of physical ability that's a prerequisite. I will never be a talented basketball player no matter how much I play, because I'm not physically able to excel.

But the point is that what we call "genius" isn't something innate. If you're physically or cognitively capable of performing a task, then ten thousand hours' practice will make you a genius at that task.

We worship genius like it's some strange thing that comes down from on high, without recognizing that it's actually a learned thing.

Originally Posted By: Virtual1
While that may be part of it, I don't think that's the most important factor. Most people's minds are tradeoffs. Good at this, bad at that, good at this, bad at that. I know I'm that way.


Yep, that's precisely the point. The tradeoff you make is in the attention you pay to something. It's not possible to spend ten thousand hours focused on something without neglecting other things. The things you are good at are the ones you focus on; the tradeoff is that you will not become good at the things you ignore while you're focused on the things you're good at. smile

Savant syndrome appears to be the extreme end of this kind of tradeoff; a savant becomes incredibly good at something, apparently incredibly easily, because he ignores the things that we all generally spend some degree of focus on without even being consciously aware of it--things like language acquisition, say, or learning to function in a social environment.

The fact that cognitive scientists now talk about "savant syndrome" rather than "idiot savants" is that savants aren't idiots. They aren't cognitively impaired the way someone with, say, Down's syndrome is cognitively impaired. Rather, they are so incredibly hyperfocused that they never learn the skills that most of us learn without even beig aware that we're learning them.


Edited by tacit (04/16/11 12:41 PM)
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#15191 - 04/16/11 07:02 PM Re: About Taste [Re: tacit]
Virtual1 Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Iowa
Originally Posted By: tacit
Originally Posted By: Virtual1
While that may be part of it, I don't think that's the most important factor. Most people's minds are tradeoffs. Good at this, bad at that, good at this, bad at that. I know I'm that way.


Yep, that's precisely the point. The tradeoff you make is in the attention you pay to something. It's not possible to spend ten thousand hours focused on something without neglecting other things. The things you are good at are the ones you focus on; the tradeoff is that you will not become good at the things you ignore while you're focused on the things you're good at. smile

Savant syndrome appears to be the extreme end of this kind of tradeoff; a savant becomes incredibly good at something, apparently incredibly easily, because he ignores the things that we all generally spend some degree of focus on without even being consciously aware of it--things like language acquisition, say, or learning to function in a social environment.

The fact that cognitive scientists now talk about "savant syndrome" rather than "idiot savants" is that savants aren't idiots. They aren't cognitively impaired the way someone with, say, Down's syndrome is cognitively impaired. Rather, they are so incredibly hyperfocused that they never learn the skills that most of us learn without even beig aware that we're learning them.


I'd agree with that. It's starting to become common to see people referred to as "geniuses" also being classified as "borderline autistic". That connection makes good sense. I'm no genius, but I certainly do have issues with not being able to multitask. I spend most of my time "in the zone" when working. A high degree of focus is a very useful thing. It wouldn't surprise me if someone studied me a bit and classified me with a very mild autism.
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#15236 - 04/20/11 09:23 AM Re: About Taste [Re: grelber]
grelber Offline


Registered: 08/05/09
Loc: North of 49th ||
Since taste by whichever definition and in whichever modality is essentially a matter of perception, a good place for further examination would be Oliver Sacks's recent book The Mind's Eye (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010; ISBN 978-0-307-39809-3).

Among other pithy observations Sacks notes: "It [facial recognition] is similar with many other capacities, from stereo vision to linguistic power: some predisposition or potential is built in genetically but requires stimulation, practice, environmental richness, and nourishment if it is to develop fully. Natural selection may bring about the initial predisposition, but experience and experiential selection are needed to bring our cognitive and perceptual capacities to their full realization." (pp 101-102)

By the bye, Sacks himself 'suffers' considerably from prosopagnosia (inability to recognize faces) and is one of the case studies in this fascinating book.


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