Cognitive Dissonance

Apropos a discussion happening on this post, The Times is running an interesting article about a new theory that challenges the bulk of “cognitive dissonance” studies that rationalize preference. Basically, the new theory suggests that how most studies have been conducted–by giving monkeys or other test animals a large selection of like items, then taking the top few and asking them to select again–actually changes the odds of what the monkey will choose, and therefore, provides a fallacious conclusion. Got it?

Now, applying this to harmony:

If a monkey (re: human) is given the choice between an octave, a minor third, and a tritone, and the monkey (human) prefers the octave to the minor third, then, statistically, the monkey (human) will prefer the tritone to the minor third two out of three times.

Well, I’m just making this up, but it’s something to consider when, say, Alex Ross claims that the tritone will never be a widely appealing interval. (That’s a paraphrase, cuz I don’t have the book in front of me.) I wonder how Homer Simpson feels about that.



  1. That was funny.

  2. “Alex Ross claims that the tritone will never be a widely appealing interval”

    [takes bong hit] Dude, if people like the song “Black Sabbath” on the first Sabbath album [takes another bong hit] they already love the tritone, because Iommi and Geezer are totally [yet another bong hit] rockin’ the tritone in that song. [stares in to space]

    What won’t the tonalists do to proclaim the superiority of their One True Way? :-) For those of who love b2, #4, b6 and their extensions (b9, #11, b13) inflected harmonies, it just seems a bit of special pleading.

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