文化塑造了我们的感官

2014/10/9 16:32:00作者:来源:查看评论0条)字号:

    FLORENCE, Italy — WE think of our senses as hard-wired gateways to the world. Many years ago the social psychologist Daryl J. Bem described the knowledge we gain from our senses as "zero-order beliefs," so taken for granted that we do not even notice them as beliefs. The sky is blue. The fan hums. Ice is cold. That's the nature of reality, and it seems peculiar that different people with their senses intact would experience it subjectively.
    意大利佛罗伦萨——我们把自己的感官想成是通往世界的既定大门。很多年前,社会心理学家达里尔·J·贝姆(Daryl J. Bem)把我们通过感官获取的认知描述成“零级信念”。它们被如此强烈地视为理所当然,以至于根本没有被我们留意到,这其实是一种信念。天空是蓝色的,风扇会发出嗡嗡声,冰是冷的。这是现实世界的本质,而感官完好的不同族群会对此有主观体验的想法,似乎有些奇怪。
    Yet they do. In recent years anthropologists have begun to point out that sensory perception is culturally specific. "Sensory perception," Constance Classen, the author of "The Deepest Sense: A Cultural History of Touch," says, "is a cultural as well as physical act." It's a controversial claim made famous by Marshall McLuhan's insistence that nonliterate societies were governed by spoken words and sound, while literate societies experienced words visually and so were dominated by sight. Few anthropologists would accept that straightforwardly today. But more and more are willing to argue that sensory perception is as much about the cultural training of attention as it is about biological capacity.
    然而,人类确实就是这样。近年来,人类学家已经开始指出,感官知觉和文化有关。《深层感知:触摸的文化史》(The Deepest Sense: A Cultural History of Touch)的作者康斯坦斯·克拉森(Constance Classen)说,“感官知觉既是一种生理行为,也是一种文化。”有一个存在争议的说法因马歇尔·麦克卢汉(Marshall McLuhan)的坚持而出了名。他坚称,没有文字的社会是由口语和声音主导的,而有文字的社会会用视觉来体验词语,因此是由视觉统领的。如今的人类学家,基本不会简单地接受这个说法。但他们当中越来越多的人愿意提出,感官知觉和注意力的文化训练的关系,不亚于与生物学能力的联系。
    Now they have some quantitative evidence to support the point. Recently, a team of anthropologists and psychologists at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Radboud University, both in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, set out to discover how language and culture affected sensory awareness. Under the leadership of Asifa Majid and Stephen C. Levinson, they made up a kit of systematic stimuli for the traditional five senses: for sight, color chips and geometric forms; for hearing, pitch, amplitude and rhythm variations; for smell, a set of scratch-and-sniff cards; and so forth. They took these kits to over 20 cultural groups around the world. Their results upend some of our basic assumptions.
    现在,他们获得了一些支持这个观点的量化证据。近日,一个由人类学家和心理学家构成的小组开始研究语言和文化对感官意识的影响。这些学者来自荷兰奈梅亨的两所院校:马克斯·普兰克心理语言学研究所(Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics)和奈梅亨大学(Radboud University)。在阿西法·马吉德(Asifa Majid)和史蒂芬·C·莱文森(Stephen C. Levinson)的带领下,他们配置了一个工具包,用来系统化地刺激传统的五感:对视力,使用色卡和几何形状;对听力,使用音调、振幅和节奏变化;对嗅觉,使用气味刮刮卡,诸如此类。他们把这种工具包带到世界各地的20多个文化群体中进行实验。研究结果颠覆了我们的一些基本假设。
    For example, it's fairly common, in scientific literature, to find the view that "humans are astonishingly bad at odor identification and naming," as a recent review of 30 years of experiments concluded. When ordinary people are presented with the smell of ordinary substances (coffee, peanut butter, chocolate), they correctly identify about half of them. That's why we think of scent as a trigger for personal memory — leading to the recall of something specific, particular, uniquely our own.
    举例来说,科学文献中有一个相当普遍的结论,借用一篇回顾30年实验研究的综述文章中的话来说,那就是“人类极不善于识别和指认气味”。当普通人嗅闻到常见物品(咖啡、花生酱、巧克力)的气味,他们可以正确识别其中大约一半。这就是为什么我们把气味当作个人记忆触发器的原因——它能勾起一些具体、特别且个人独有的回忆。
    It turns out that the subjects of those 30 years of experiments were mostly English-speaking. Indeed, English speakers find it easy to identify the common color in milk and jasmine flowers ("white") but not the common scent in, say, bat droppings and the leaf of ginger root. When the research team presented what should have been familiar scents to Americans — cinnamon, turpentine, lemon, rose and so forth — they were terrible at naming them. Americans, they wrote, said things like this when presented with the cinnamon scratch-and-sniff card: "I don't know how to say that, sweet, yeah; I have tasted that gum like Big Red or something tastes like, what do I want to say? I can't get the word. Jesus it's like that gum smell like something like Big Red. Can I say that? O.K. Big Red, Big Red gum."
    其实在30年来的这些实验中,受试者大多都讲英语。确实,讲英语的人容易识别牛奶和茉莉花均会呈现的颜色(“白色”),但却很难识别同样的气味,比如蝙蝠粪便和姜叶的共有气味。当研究小组使用美国人本应熟悉的一些气味时,比如肉桂、松脂、柠檬和玫瑰等等,却发现他们在指认这些气味时表现糟糕。研究者写道,闻到肉桂味的刮刮卡时,美国人会说:“我不知道怎么讲,这个很香甜,恩;我以前吃过这种味道的口香糖,比如大红牌(Big Red),或者有这个味道的什么东西,我想说什么来着?我想不起那个词了。天啊,就好像口香糖,有点像大红牌的。我能那么说吗?好吧,就是大红牌,大红牌口香糖。”
    When the research team visited the Jahai, rain-forest foragers on the Malay Peninsula, they found that the Jahai were succinct and more accurate with the scratch-and-sniff cards. In fact, they were about as good at naming what they smelled as what they saw. They do, in fact, have an abstract term for the shared odor in bat droppings and the leaf of ginger root. Abstract odor terms are common among people on the Malay Peninsula.
    嘉海人生活在马来半岛的热带雨林,以觅食为生。研究小组在他们那里发现,嘉海人对于气味刮刮卡的回答很简洁,而且更加准确。事实上,他们指认气味的能力,不亚于他们指认看到的东西的本领。他们还有一个抽象的术语,用来描述蝙蝠粪便和姜叶同样的味道。在马来半岛上的族群中,描述气味的抽象词语很常见。
    The team also found that several communities — speakers of Persian, Turkish and Zapotec — used different metaphors than English and Dutch speakers to describe pitch, or frequency: Sounds were thin or thick rather than high or low. In later work, they demonstrated that the metaphors were powerful enough to disrupt perception. When Dutch speakers heard a tone while being shown a mismatched height bar (e.g., a high tone and a low bar) and were asked to sing the tone, they sang a lower tone. But the perception wasn't influenced when they were shown a thin or thick bar. When Persian speakers heard a tone and were shown a bar of mismatched thickness, however, they misremembered the tone — but not when they were shown a bar mismatched for height.
    该研究小组还发现,有几个社会——使用波斯语、土耳其语和萨波特克语的人——用来描述音调或声音频率的形容词是粗和细,而不是英语和荷兰语使用者说的高和低。在后来的实验中,研究者证明了这些隐喻效力强大,足以影响人们的知觉。当荷兰语使用者听到一个音,同时看到高度与之不匹配的条块(例如,听到一个高音,看到的却是较低的条块),然后被要求唱出这个音的时候,从他们口中发的音调会比较低。但当他们看到粗细不同的条块时,知觉不会受到影响。当波斯语使用者听到声音,并看到粗细与之不匹配的条块时,他们就会记错音调——但看到高度与之不匹配的条块时,则不受影响。
    The team also found that some of these differences could change over time. They taught the Dutch speakers to think about pitch as thin or thick, and soon these participants, too, found that their memory of a tone was affected by being shown a bar that was too thick or too thin. They found that younger Cantonese speakers had fewer words for tastes and smells than older ones, a shift attributed to rapid socioeconomic development and Western-style schooling.
    该小组还发现,其中一些差异可以随时间改变。他们教荷兰语使用者把音调想成粗或细,很快他们就发现,这些受试者对音调的记忆,也受到了显示条块过粗或过细的影响。他们还发现,在讲粤语的人群中,由于社会经济的快速发展和西式教育的盛行,与年长者相比,年轻人对描述口味和气味的词汇量掌握较少。
    I wrote this in Florence, Italy, a city famous as a feast for the senses. People say that Florence teaches you to see differently — that as the soft light moves across the ocher buildings, you see colors you never noticed before.
    撰写本文时,我正好在意大利佛罗伦萨。这是一座出了名地提供感官盛宴的城市。有人说,佛罗伦萨教你用不同的眼光看待事物——柔和的光线在赭石建筑物上移动,让你看到以前从未注意过的颜色。
    It taught Kevin Systrom, a co-founder of Instagram, to see differently. He attributes his inspiration to a photography class he took in Florence while at a Stanford study-abroad program about a decade ago. His teacher took away his state-of-the-art camera and insisted he use an old plastic one instead, to change the way he saw. He loved those photos, the vintage feel of them, and the way the buildings looked in the light. He set out to recreate that look in the app he built. And that has changed the way many of us now see as well.
    它教会了Instagram的联合创始人凯文·斯特罗姆(Kevin Systrom)用别样的眼光看东西。斯特罗姆说,自己的灵感来自大约10年前通过斯坦福大学的海外交流计划在佛罗伦萨参加的一门摄影课程。老师拿走了他的高精尖相机,坚持让他用一台老旧的塑料相机,来改变他的观看方式。他很喜欢这样拍出来的照片和那种复古感,以及建筑物在光线中的模样。他设法在自己创建的应用中重现了那种模样。于是,这款应用也同样改变了我们很多人的观看方式。

 

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