Do You Need to Hear a Musical Group to Judge Its Quality?

Research participants who watched silent videos of chamber-music ensembles were 26% more accurate at guessing which ones had been winners of past musical contests (such as the Saint Paul String Quartet Competition) than people who had watched both audio and video of the groups, says Chia-Jung Tsay of University College London. Participants who listened to audio without video were the worst at guessing the competition winners. In evaluating the groups without sound, the viewers were apparently responding to what they perceived as strong leadership and indications of group unity, such as the players’ proximity and similarity of appearance—probably the same factors that had influenced the judges of the competitions, Tsay says.

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