I believe it is within human nature to rate things and find their place (their relationships) to others in the same category. I am no expert at this, and this might be obvious, but I came to this realization today driving home. I have friends who work for a company that assigns a level to employees' status within the company. They use the label "tier." I should say "used to," as now they've switched to titles, but everyone still uses the tier number. Often, if you bring up someone's name, and they are unfamiliar, their tier is mentioned as a way to identify them. Everyone immediately knows how they rate compared to everyone else, in regards, at least, to experience, pay, or rank. When I review a restaurant, and strictly speaking, we're talking about the food (70%), value (5%), and the service (25%), I assign a number of stars. 5 levels. In the company, they have 8 tiers. And today, a friend says she rates people along 4 levels. "They range from very attractive down to someone so hideous, it's disgusting." Wow. But I learned that this system wasn't talking so much about physical appearance, as a more complex algorithm that defined them as a person. "By attractive, I mean someone who you want to speak with, talk to; you enjoy their company; by repulsive, I mean someone who doesn't make sense, is always a downer, and treats people like garbage." I found it interesting that if we rate things, we apply plateaus or levels to the rating. This seems to be a big part of the system at play. * Restaurants and movies, 5 stars * Hot or Not, 10 levels * Personal Qualities, 4 levels * Work Organization Chart, 8 levels I think what folks are doing is approximating where something belongs along a continuum, between polar opposites. It's like in iTunes, where I can assign 1-5 stars to a song. We all seem to understand this rating concept pretty well, either because it is in fact part of human nature, or else, it's so common in today's society. I find it difficult, however, to rate music. I certainly have some favorite songs/works, but where do you draw the line? In classical, at the movement level? Or the entire work? For pop, is it the whole album, or just one song? Many times when I'm rating pictures I took with my camera, I start with a binary filter: good and bad. Then I might take the goods and split them into two levels. Now we have bad, good, and great. And we could keep doing this, diving down, splitting hairs, for just about anything we might want to find along some continuum we've dreamed up. When I review an album here on biberfan.org, I typically do not give it a rating. I find it too difficult in music. And I'd have a hard time rating someone--a real person--too, at least on the holistic type of qualities my friend identified. Physical appearance is one thing, but personality, empathy, intelligence, and personality are far too confusing. What if you took, however, 5 people (or 5 recordings) and then were asked to put those in order: from least favorite to most favorite... might you favor recordings you've lived with longer? Or might the bias go the other way, to the newest, most arresting new recording? And with people: I can't imagine if I had been in love with someone, who died, then fell in love again, and was asked to put those in some order... wouldn't you have to pick the person you were still with? Or if you didn't, would you be so honest? I think the human nature portion of ratings work on one level that's pretty incredible. Walking down a busy city street, I can see plenty of folks I might find attractive, and if the sample is small enough, I could probably pretty quickly put them into some order. I might be just as good with short excerpts of music. But when asked to articulate the reasons why, and to scrutinize the details, I think it all becomes more complex. And lastly, what does it say of us who do rate things? Is it a undesirable behavior to be articulating this rating business? In writing this little essay, I know I've admitted to myself too many times I might be in a constantly rating mode. Hyper-critical, perhaps. Luckily, I don't think reviewing some CDs is too bad... but I'll stay away from more touchy or controversial things.