We’ve come to Harvard University where experimenters in the 1930s found that when listeners hear a disembodied voice over loudspeakers they can’t but help jump to conclusions about the person doing the talking. They infuse these strangers with personality, making judgements about their politics, their mood, even their appearance. A second experiment got one group to read a printed text, while another heard the same words read over loudspeakers. The findings were even more startling. Those who’d read it were more critical and questioning about the text; those who’d heard it were more inclined to believe everything they’d been told. This, then, was radio’s great triumph: that a disembodied voice – even one speaking to a national radio audience – was treated like a real person talking to listeners personally, as someone to be trusted, a friend.
I had read David’s notes about these experiments a month ago, but now hearing him riff on them aloud, well, they seemed much more believable, more true. And what’s more he’s never sounded more friendly. Which is a relief because we have a lot more work to do together.