A recent blog post from Bobby Owinski titled Why We Love Repetition in Music, (if you create music, his blog is a must read, BTW), he puts forth that the more a song repeats lyrics, drum beats, melodies and musical phrases, the more we like it. To quote, “We don’t get bored by a part or a hook that we’ve heard before; our enjoyment may actually increase.”
He refers to the Elisabeth Hellmuth Margulis book On Repeat, How Music Plays the Mind, which talks of an effect called “semantic sensation“. This is where a word or music phrase is repeated so often that it no longer gets processed by the meaning parts of our brain. On the surface, this sounds like mental fatigue, and should be a bad thing.
Surprisingly, it often isn’t. As she writes, for music “it carves out a familiar, rewarding path in our minds, allowing us to anticipate and participate in each phrase as we listen”. We certainly gravitate to music that we know. New pop music is taking this to extremes, with carefully crafted repetition being mandatory. For exhibit A, I could put submit any song in Rihanna catalog, but here’s a particularly blatant extremely catchy example:
This got me thinking that it’s not only music where this effect occurs. Repetition of words and ideas, particularly when you hear the same thing from different sources, leads to acceptance, even mental rewards, regardless of the truth. Saturation advertising seeks to achieve this, it’s an (unintentional?/intentional?) byproduct of the 24 hour news cycle, and of course the nature of the web world pretty well ensures that you’ll hear the same thing many times.
And it happens in business as well. On one hand, you have external forces feeding the business and technology hype cycles. On the other, if businesses repeat internal opinions enough, they can become truths.
This, of course, can lead to bad decisions or become a major impediment to organizational change.