Sunday, October 31, 2010

Oprah, Designer Fashion and Groupthink

I was in the local laundromat a few days ago, and Oprah's talk show happened to be on television there. They were doing a segment where they dress identical twins in the same outfit, one from a top-name designer, the other off-the-rack from wherever, and the audience is supposed to guess which one was designer.

The models were wearing the "little black dress" under a fake fur stole (I guess that's what it's called, it looked like a vest). My eyes were drawn instantly to the model on the right, who looked shapely and confident, as opposed to the other model, whose dress looked, for lack of a better term, flat. Remembering that they were identical twins, it was obvious that I was missing something. I noticed that the shading on the "shapely" model's dress happened to have lighter or darker areas apparently placed for strategic highlights, where the other dress was the same shade throughout. So, you'd think we have a clear winner, right?

Wrong. Oprah then asked the audience to vote by applause for which model was wearing the designer outfit. There was roughly the same amount of applause for each model. The conclusion was that there was no difference, that off-the-rack is just as good as custom design.

At this point, it's all I can do not to start yelling in the laundromat: "You people are nuts! I'm just a guy and I can tell the difference! Look at them! The curves! The shading! Oh, never mind..."

So we have an example of groupthink. It wasn't just Oprah. This was the entire audience deciding that there wasn't a difference, even though the difference was readily apparent. At least that's the charitable interpretation. The worst part is, it's quite possible that all of those people can vote.

I just had to get that off my chest. Thanks for reading.