In their stellar book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip Heath and Dan Heath describe the tapping game:
In 1990, Elizabeth Newton earned a Ph.D. in psychology at Stanford by studying a simple game in which she assigned people to one of two roles: "tappers" or "listeners." Tappers received a list of twenty-five well-known songs, such as "Happy Birthday to You" and "The StarSpangled Banner." Each tapper was asked to pick a song and tap out the rhythm to a listener (by knocking on a table). The listener's job was to guess the song, based on the rhythm being tapped.
Take a moment and play right now if you have a listener around.
The usual outcome is failure to get the song across.
Over the course of Newton's experiment, 120 songs were tapped out. Listeners guessed only 2.5 percent of the songs: 3 out of 120.
But here's what made the result worthy of a dissertation in psychology. Before the listeners guessed the name of the song, Newton asked the tappers to predict the odds that the listeners would guess correctly. They predicted that the odds were 50 percent. The tappers got their message across 1 time in 40, but they thought they were getting their message across 1 time in 2.
I'm happy to report a success in the tapping game last night: my friend and I both tapped out "Twinkle, Twinkle" to each other, and she guessed it. First time that's worked for me in a bunch of tries! Of course, my quite pregnant wife at the table may have triggered the song in both our minds! I digress.
The reason the tapping game is coming up here is because we just put up a new website. We think our software is pretty amazing, and would like to make sure visitors get what it does (rapidly reviews contracts for user-specified provisions and put findings into attractive summary charts). In our opinion, our new website does a better job of describing what we do and looks pretty along the way. But what we really care about is user reactions. Please let us know if you get our tapping. We would love the feedback, either by comments below.
(Note: the blog is still waiting for it's beautification. Stay tuned!)
(photo: http://www.flickr.com )