Tuesday, 21 August 2012

When Does A Negative Become A Positive?

Every now and then, the question of the value of negative reviews raises its head, which is why a recent article by the restaurant critic Jay Rayner grabbed my attention. I'm not sure its contents chime with my own thoughts on the subject, but paragraphs such as the one below certainly made for an interesting read:

The psychologist and author Oliver James tells me that, to understand [the appeal of critical reviews] ... we must look to what's called "social-comparison theory". He says we have "a natural tendency to compare ourselves with other people in order to learn how to perform better and improve our self-esteem". We can compare both upwards and downwards, but "comparing upwards is dangerous because it can make you feel inadequate". If, however, you compare down, that can have positive outcomes. "We want to hear about bad things happening to other people," James says, "because it makes us feel better about ourselves." I like this theory, because it suggests I am performing a greater service for the readers than just telling them where not to eat. I am literally brightening their day.

To see the rest of the article, please click here. I'm off to sharpen my hatchet.



  1. Big fan of your wonderful writing and keen and fun observations.

    Any Thoughts on the Chandler Burr Project yet? I know that at last reading it was not available in Europe but wondered what you may have thought of the scents chosen so far.

    I find them very minimalist and I love one but the others just not that noteworthy. Was interested in your expert opinion.
    Michelle of perfume and INk.

    1. Michelle, thanks very much for reading, and for your kind words.

      I confess I haven't given the Untitled project much thought since it started, partly because OpenSky don't post to Europe yet.

      I think it's an interesting idea, but personally, I don't see any problem with knowing the context of a scent before trying it. I think factors such as the name, brand etc do have a legitimate role to play in the overall artistic statement.

  2. Hi again,

    And I agree. I have received the latter two and am not impressed. The first choice was Infusion D"Iris which I had before his launch. That fragrance changed my mind about quiet scents (not much of a fan of minimalism) so for that reason I would consider it a work of art. But I must confess I use it only when I want to try to diffuse my often less than elegant attire. Infusion reminds me of the cool beauty of a Grace Kelly something which the more eclectic among us may never attain. In my case, if I briefly do attain a degree of elegance, it will only later be obliterated by the errant dog fur or slightly over the top vintage weird jewelry I treasure. The other two (one yet to be revealed) strike me as pallid little creations that underwhelm me. I do not want to smell like expensive soap though at times, as with Infusion, it does serve a purpose. I am interested by the transparency and similarity of the samplings to date, maybe just a choice of light scents for this unbearable summer?

    I also feel that were this to be a totally unbiased sampling it would not be prefaced by any remarks as doesn't having Chandler Burr comment so rhapsodically already bias us to some degree?

    I agree that knowing something about who makes the scent does have a legitimate role to play. Just as knowing the author of a book will influence our reading choices knowing the creator of a scent points us in a direction of perfumes we may like more than others based on the excellence or not of prior creations.
    Now on to the park for a walk with my beautiful boxer rescues Vito and Mannie. Just a spray of Vol De Nuit,some red lipstick and a my huge multi colored 1940's necklace which offsets my casual attire and the "errant fur" of my beloved pets.
    Continue on with your wonderful and enjoyable work.

    1. Hi there,

      Yes, you're absolutely right: the scents are coming with Burr's endorsement, which means they're not being presented without some sort of bias... not that a bias is a bad thing, of course.

      Don't get me wrong, I find the Untitled idea very interesting. But I also don't have a problem with knowing what a perfumer wanted to call a certain creation. Many pieces of art 'hold' their meaning in their titles, and I don't see why perfume should be an exception.


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