Nature vs. Nurture in Sensory Experiences

I had an interesting experience the other day, and it was one that stopped me in my tracks. On the one hand, I saw my own constraints in taste on full display. On the other hand, I saw that all my talk about “sensory ecosystems” isn’t totally crazy. The “Nature vs. Nurture” argument is alive and well, but we rarely hear it talked about in terms of our sensory experiences as children and how these might affect us as adults.

The sensory ecosystem in which we’re raised

I was texting with my good friend, Kathryn, who grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana. She has lived in Los Angeles for over two decades at this point but she maintains close ties with her home state and considers herself to be very much from Louisiana. The idea of being “from” somewhere is a whole other story that those who know me know is a long one.

As we were texting, she sent me a link to this song by new R&B sensation, Layton Green. She has never sent me a video or music clip so clearly this artist had impacted her. Yes, Layton is now being represented by a label that Kathryn knew on a personal level but clearly the song and the artist spoke to her in such a way that she wanted to share them with me.

Sharing new music

Here’s where I’m not proud of myself. I saw Kathryn write “R&B,” and I instantly thought to myself, “R&B’s not my thing. I’m probably not going to like it.” SHAME. ON. ME! Here I am preaching about discovering new music, trying new tastes, uncovering hidden gems, looking out for new experiences wherever possible, and the first reaction I had to Kathryn’s text was to (textually) hold up my hand and say, No. I was horrified at my initial reaction.

But then… I played the song. The tendency of my classically-trained ear to want to analyze the vocals reared its head something fierce, and it was before I could even listen to the lyrics, think about the message, or see the artist. And as we texted a bit more, we talked about how Kathryn had grown up listening to R&B… just as I had grown up listening to opera and classical music.

“Think it has to do with what you hear as a child to some extent. It’s about my fave!” she wrote. And I responded “100%! That’s what I say ALL THE TIME!”

Breaking out of the mold

I didn’t think of the idea of nature vs. nurture in terms of sensory experiences or a sensory ecosystem when I first launched my company. As I have gone back and sifted through all the different experiences and thoughts that brought Five Senses Tastings to life, however, I came to learn a lot more about it. I realized that where and how I grew up – in Germany, under grey skies, wearing a lot of clothing most of the year, with very few spices, limited fruit options, and in a household that played almost exclusively classical music – most definitely influenced my desire to break OUT of that mold. It was the idea that a sensory ecosystem, in, around, and through which we are raised, is something we actively have to seek to break out of if we want to interact in a meaningful way with other cultures, people, and traditions around the world.

Wine Tasting in Los Angeles with Five Senses Tastings

Discovering new things

Discovery is the single-most wonderful and necessary part of what we do in our music and wine tastings. I love to open our guests’ eyes to the wonders of the world of music – from the 1600s to today. It’s one of my favorite things to do. And you’d be surprised: a lot of guests find that the selections they love the most are the ones they expected to love the least!

Same with wine. And cheese. To a lesser extent (unsurprisingly) with chocolate.

So the next time you’re inclined to switch something off because you don’t know it or think you don’t like it, stop yourself. Give it a minute… or two… and then see how you go. Though you may not end up loving it, try just giving it a chance. I did and BOY am I glad. I have now learned all about Layton Greene’s remarkable story, heard several of her songs, and am much more inclined to continue following her and learning about those with whom she collaborates as she moves through her musical career.

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