We only see what we expect to see

Joshua_Bell

Just before 8 o’clock in the morning of January 2007, a young man wearing jeans, sweater and a baseball cap steps into a subway station in central Washington DC. He picks up a violin from a case, puts the case on the ground in front of him with a few coins in and for the next 43 minutes he plays six classic pieces. During this time, 1 097 people pass. Twenty-seven of them put a coin in the case, usually on the go. Only seven people stay up and listen for at least one minute, including a three-year-old black boy who needs to be violently pulled from the place by his mother. The total revenue is 32 dollars and 17 cents.


This could be a regular mediocre street musician, but it was not. The musician was Joshua Bell, one of America’s most famous violinists who had played for the full house in Boston Symphony Hall a few days earlier, where the cheapest tickets went for $ 100. The start of the subway was “Chaconne” from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor, one of the most difficult plays of music history and performed on a Stradivarius violin worth $ 3.5 million.

We are so used to looking at things from a certain perspective that we only see what we think we see and then we are wondering ourselves. If we think we see another street musician, we disconnect our minds and listen to the music without listening.

By sometimes taking a step back and changing perspectives we can see new possibilities that would otherwise have been hidden. Different optical illusions are based on this programming of our brain. Only when we look at something from another angle and from another point of view can we see the hidden truths in the picture.

The video on YouTube

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Author: Karl Ekdahl

International public health leader and creativity blogger.

One thought on “We only see what we expect to see”

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