aNewDomain — Psychologists sometimes present people with ambiguous stimuli in order to see what you will make of them.
Take the Rorschach test, for example. We’re not supposed to show you any of the plates from the test, although in fact you can find them everywhere. So I’ll tell you this joke instead:
A psychologist is giving the Rorschach. She shows a guy the first plate and asks what he sees. He says, that one looks like a penis. The next one looks like a penis with wings. Two guys making out. My mother in the shower. When all the plates are done, she says, “I have to go and do some more data analysis, but my first impression is you seem rather pre-occupied with sex.” The guy says, “So, what? You’re the one showing me all the dirty pictures.”
Truth is, we see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. The world – the whole universe! – is full of ambiguous stimuli and we make of those what we want to.
There’s the face on Mars, the pictures of junk floating in Loch Ness, ghost voices.
Listen to the below video three times. The first time, don’t watch the screen. The second time, watch the screen. The third time, it doesn’t matter if you watch or not. You’ll hear what the screen told you to hear.
And then there’s this. According to McDonalds, some customers are complaining that its new Minion toy uses curse words.
I have no idea what the maker of this video is hearing the toy say.
But I can assure you it is all totally in his own head. The minion toys make nonsense noises designed to sound like, but not actually be, language. Into this ambiguous stimulus, you can insert whatever meaning you want.
And that’s what’s happening. The person who is listening is inserting curse words.
That might say something about the listener, but it says nothing at all about the sound.
This whole discussion takes me all the way back to NippleGate.
Remember NippleGate? The (in)famous Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction.” I don’t think I ever saw a nipple! I looked. If you’re desperate to see for yourself, go here:
Believe me, there’s basically nothing to see.
What’s interesting is that the FCC got a small number of calls about this, and they were basically all from two nutty pro-censorship “family values” guys in Colorado. These two viewers called many times to make it look like the nation really gave a crap about something we really couldn’t have cared any less about and probably would not even have noticed. Because there was no nipple to see!
All the outrage was basically fake.
You see what you want to see and, if you’re a semi-journalist who is hard-up for a news story, into this you can read a scandal. If you’re a hard-right “family values” Christian, maybe you can see a salacious sex act in this if you’re feeling angry about Janet Jackson.
If you’re a football fan, you can see an undue interruption in the game.
Whatever you want, you can see it.
Here’s Chris Hardwick on freeing the nipples. Caution: This clip contains some strong language – but it is hilarious:
It’s amazing that he can’t say “fucking” but he can say “jizz.” See what I mean? The regulations here are arbitrary and meaningless. And actually, my editor might cover up one or both or neither word, and that might confuse you. Good.
[Editor: Actually, Jason, you used the words correctly in context. So I left them. gs]
Anyway, we’re overspecified to make particular kinds of things out of arbitrary stimuli.
Faces and bodies and sexual provocations, because those are the things that keep the species going, in the end. Dirty words, maybe, because they bind us together. Every language has them and they serve numerous purposes: bonding for children (defying adults together by using the forbidden language); pain reduction; identification of the inappropriate; emphasis.
Look at this:
Just, when you see penises in the clouds or the image of Jesus on a corn chip — or you are sure that is your mom taking a shower in your tea leaves — be a little careful about attributing those images to what’s out there. And be really careful about telling anyone about it too publicly.
Because it’s all inside your head. And that’s natural. Really.
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.
Cover image: WSPA.com, All Rights Reserved.