We love Familiarity

Kurt Cobain

A mild tempest sizzled recently over the Muppets.

Seems that Courtney Love objected to the Muppets’ rendition of a Nirvana song.

The teapot tempest brewed in the circles of MTV and social media attenders: but you have to look hard to find the brouhaha if you have a day job.

Love objected to the cover version of Smells Like Teen Spirit from the new Muppet movie.

Made me think about how familiarity can affect how we hear, see and remember things.

Familiarity is a powerful tool when it comes to cementing your memory. Social scientists like Robert Zajonc studied the impact of familiarity and found that the more we are exposed to (for example) a message, the more we come to like it.

In other words familiarity can breed affection.

My first exposure to Nirvana arrived courtesy of daughter Wee-Hey in the form of Nirvana’s Unplugged album—the summer I borrowed my dad’s truck and drove more than 700 miles to Atlanta to spend vacation with my honey.

I listened to the Nirvana tape—the one Wee-Hey forgot in the truck after I drove her to the airport in Tulsa so she could spend time with her pop in Eugene—for the entire trip.

My musical tastes run orthogonal to grunge and garage style, but, after about 244 miles, Kurt Cobain began to grow on me.

After hearing the songs as I flew through towns like Clarksville, Memphis, Tupelo and Birmingham, the songs began to stick under my skin like the summer humidity that plagues the south.

When I hear Nirvana tunes today, I fondly remember the long drive, the swampy weather and a bittersweet romance, verifying Zajonc’s treatise on familiarity.

Even when the lyrics are mouthed by Beaker and Animal.

Photo from http://newspaper.li/kurt-cobain/

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About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. She is enrolled with the Osage tribe.
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