A grizzly bear can smell a human from 18 miles away. Jumping spiders can see colors beyond the normal range that humans see. And some birds can fly across the world using the earth’s magnetic fields as a guide. But what about humans? Do some of us have super senses? Is our experience of the world better or worse than others?
And what about music? Can some people experience music more deeply than others? When we look at great art, are we experiencing it at a more meaningful level than others? Well, there are actually people who say they experience things more deeply. In fact, they even make a living from it. We call them critics. Art critics supposedly know more about art, music critics know more about music, and wine critics, of course, know more about wine. Their knowledge and experience is supposedly so much deeper than ours that we listen to their opinions, hoping they will guide us to make better choices.
But do wine critics really know wine better than average person? There is growing evidence that they don’t. Richard Hodgson, a wine grower and a teacher of statistics, repeatedly gave some famous wine judges the same wine multiple times at the California State Fair wine competition, and only 10% knew they were being tricked. Hodgson then performed this experiment hundreds of times at wine competitions across the nation, and the result was the same. These experts were repeatedly fooled into thinking the same wine was different.
Hodgson started looking into the accuracy of wine competitions when he noticed that his own wines could win top awards in one competition, while they could be ranked at the bottom at others. He collected data on numerous wine competitions and concluded that the awards were statistically random.
This is not to say that there was no difference between wines or that all wine judges are liars. These wine judges were probably giving their honest opinions, but their opinions were subjective judgments that wouldn’t necessarily apply to other people. How much of our experience of the world is shared and how much is unique? Is there any truly objective reality in the world of wine or anything else? Is the color red the same for you as it is for me? How exactly does music move some people and yet does nothing for others? Let us know what you think in the comments.