Skip to main content

The "Retail Anthropologist."

"Retail Anthropologist" Paco Underhill. He studies and tracks the habits of shoppers in order to learn the best way to lead them to make purchases. His retail consulting firm, Envirosell, has helped big-name companies such as McDonald's, Levi Strauss, and Blockbuster to study their customers' browsing and buying habits. (REBROADCAST FROM 3-26-97) (Interview by Barbara Bogaev)

13:50

Guest

Host

Related Topic

Other segments from the episode on December 5, 1997

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, December 5, 1997: Interview with John Gottman; Review of Horace Silver's album "A Prescription for the Blues"; Interview with Paco Underhill; Review of the film "Good Will…

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: DECEMBER 05, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 120501NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Marriage Success
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

It doesn't sound very romantic when couples discuss having to work on their relationships. But let's face it, a lot of couples need to work on how they handle conflict.

That's where my guest, Dr. John Gottman, comes in. He's spent the past 25 years observing how couples interact and analyzing why some relationships last and others fall apart.

Gottman directs the Seattle Marital and Family Institute and is a professor of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle. He also runs weekend workshops for couples, which he calls "the marriage survival kit."

His books include "Why Marriages Fail and Succeed" and "The Heart of Parenting: Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child."

I asked Dr. Gottman what he's looking for when he observes how couples interact.

JOHN GOTTMAN, DIRECTOR, SEATTLE MARITAL AND FAMILY INSTITUTE, AND AUTHOR, "WHY MARRIAGES SUCCEED OR FAIL": Well, actually the only thing I really bring to the whole question is just one that, and that -- if I can tell you a story.

When I was a beginning assistant professor, I was interested in the problem of kids who didn't have any friends. And I found that there was a psychologist who had developed a program to help kids make friends.

And I called him up and I asked him for information about the program and would he send me the materials he had developed. And then I asked him, "How did you develop these materials?"

And he said, "Well, I sat around with a couple of graduate students and we tried to imagine what it was like to be four years old. And we figured out how to make friends."

And I did some research after that, which took me about ten years to find out how children really do make friends.

Turned out that he was teaching children to do things like go over to other kids and say, "Hi, my name is Harold, can I play with you?" And that turned out, in the research I did later, to be the perfect way to get rejected.

LAUGHTER

GROSS: Yeah.

GOTTMAN: So, you know, the only thing I bring to this whole thing is really trying to find out what it is that real couples do whose, you know, marriages are going well, you know, marriages are stable and satisfying, rather than trying to assume that I know.

We do things like, you know, in Seattle we have 130 newlyweds we've been following for the past eight years. And we also study couples who have been married a long time, two groups of couples in their forties and one group of couples in their sixties, and try to see, you know, just what do these people actually do to make their marriages work.

GROSS: Now, how do you study this?

GOTTMAN: A variety of ways. We really try to do it just about every way we can.

I have an apartment laboratory in Seattle where couples live for 24 hours. And they don't have any instructions. They just come there in the morning with a bag of groceries and they read the Sunday paper and they eat together and watch television and work, do what they normally would do at home.

We also have them talk about...

GROSS: Wait. But you're running surveillance on them while they do this, right?

GOTTMAN: Right. There's four cameras pointed...

LAUGHTER

They wear these halter monitors that measure electrocardiograms. And so -- and every time they urinate we take a sample of the urine and get stress hormones out of the assays and take blood from them at the end and look at their immune system. But, after about 45 minutes, people are really kind of behaving naturally.

We actually know that they never totally behave naturally. They're a little nicer to each other when there are cameras there than they would be at home. We've actually recorded them at home, and there's a lot more upset and nastiness that goes on for longer periods of time when they're home.

GROSS: So, if somebody says, dear, you know, I really hate it when you leave the dishes for me to do, then you're measuring the stress hormones, blood pressure, heart beat...

GOTTMAN: Exactly.

GROSS: ... in both of the members of a couple when this conversation continues.

GOTTMAN: Yeah. That's right. That's right.

And then we show them their videotapes and ask them to tell us, you know, what were you thinking, what were you feeling, what do you think your partner was thinking and feeling? We interview them about these moments.

And then we, you know, we record their facial muscles and code exactly what emotional expressions are on their face, what's going on in the voice, what's going on in the body, what they're saying. So, we actually have observers there coding people's behavior, categorizing every small behavior that they engage in.

And then we interview them about the history of their relationship -- how they met, how they think about their marriage, and, you know, various difficult times and how they get through difficult times, try to get their philosophy and their, you know, own narratives about their marriage.

Very much like Studs Terkel would do, you know, when he sits with somebody in their attic and asks them, well, tell me about this doll, you know. In fact, we model a lot of our interviewing on Studs Terkel's methods.

GROSS: When you are doing one of these marital interviews, does each member of the couple contradict the other in describing the marital history?

GOTTMAN: Happens sometimes, yeah. Most of the time they kind of complete each other's sentences and they're, you know, they present really sort of a united front.

But a lot of times you'll find one person says, well, you know, this is a very difficult period for us. And the other person says, well, for you it was a difficult period, for me it was a great period. And so, that person is really saying, you know, we're not really a unit, we're very different from each other. So, it does happen a lot.

GROSS: Do the couples watch the video tapes that you make of them?

GOTTMAN: Yes, they do. And we ask them to sort of narrate those video tapes and tell us what was going on in their minds, what were they thinking about, what were they feeling during those tapes? And we try to find out sort of what's different about what the observers see and what they perceive.

GROSS: And what is often different?

GOTTMAN: Well, there's a very interesting phenomenon that happens in some marriages. You know, some of the time the observers will say, well, this comment was really quite neutral, you know, it wasn't, you know, it wasn't even emotional. And yet the spouse will perceive it as very provocative, you know.

Like, for example, you know, a wife might say something like, you know, you really aren't supposed to run the microwave oven with no food in it. And yet the partner will say, don't tell me what to do, you know. Did you read the manual? You never read manuals. That's your problem.

LAUGHTER

And some of the times, you know, you know, that wife might say something like, what's the matter with you? You're not supposed to run the microwave with no food in it. And the husband will say, oh, yeah, OK, thanks, I didn't know that.

LAUGHTER

So, you have this discrepancy between the way observers see it and the way the partners see it.

That turns out to be a very critical dimension because if you have a positive perspective, you see these sort of irritable kind of statements, you take the irritability as if the statement were in italics. You know, you say, oh, this must be important to my partner.

If you've got that positive perspective, it turns out to predict an ability to repair conflict when it doesn't go well. And if you don't have that positive perspective, if you have more of a negative perspective, it predicts in fact that your ability to resolve conflict will deteriorate over time.

GROSS: Hmm. So, people get deeper and deeper into those patterns?

GOTTMAN: Exactly. Exactly.

GROSS: When somebody sees this on the video tape, or when you point it out to them, how easy is it to repair?

GOTTMAN: It really isn't easy to change the positive or negative perspective. You have to do a whole bunch of things that really underlie these.

And that's one of the things that we've discovered in the past couple of years is that, you know, there's been a focus, a very strong focus on the resolution of conflict as being the way that couples really can get close and make their marriages work.

And we've discovered that really that's wrong, that in fact the everyday interaction that couples have with one another -- and there really are three things that form the basis of this positive perspective, that makes them able to solve problems.

One of them is just kind of knowing one another, knowing things about one another, and it really has to do with -- well, we actually have a board game that couples play in our workshops where we ask them things like, who is your spouse's least favorite relative? Or, what side of the bed does you spouse prefer to sleep on? And a lot of people don't know things like that.

GROSS: So, what you're saying there is one of the really most aspects of a successful relationship is paying attention to the person you're in the relationship with.

GOTTMAN: Exactly. And knowing things about them. So, if you opened up the skull of some guys, you know, you'd find a lot of brain cells allocated to the relationship and the partner. And other guys, you know, you'd find, you know, very few.

And you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see this. When we asked people how they met, you know, some guys are saying things like, oh, you know, it was, I remember the night, we met at this dance. And, you know, she was wearing a yellow dress and the band was playing "As Time Goes By." And I thought, this is a slow song, I could ask her to dance, but then I found my feet were glued to the floor, my heart was beating fast. And then she came over, asked me to dance.

And you ask another guy, how did you and your wife meet, and he'll say, Anna, how did we meet?

LAUGHTER

You know, it's very, very clear differences between people. So, that's the first step out of three for building this positive perspective.

GROSS: And what's the next one?

GOTTMAN: Well, the next one is really the fondness and admiration system. It's really how much affection there is and how much respect there is in this relationship.

And some people really, you know, spontaneously say things like, boy, you know, there's one thing I really admire about Jane, you know, she's really got a lot of guts. I mean, she had this boss who was really domineering, and Jane just went in and told her what she thought. And, boy, I would never do that, you know. And she's done this with our son, too, and she's gone and, you know, confronted the teacher who was really giving him a hard time.

And, you know, some guys never say things like that. And we find that this fondness and admiration system is really critical in keeping romance going in the relationship.

GROSS: And the third?

GOTTMAN: And the third is what I call the emotional bank account. It's really, really doesn't have much to do with emotional events. It's these everyday sort of mundane events that happen between people who are in a close relationship.

And, you know, it could be something like one person is brushing their teeth in the morning and is in a big hurry. And then the partner comes in and says, I just had a disturbing dream.

And then, you know, you can either turn toward your partner and say something like, I'm in a real big hurry, but what'd you dream? And then you get a sort of a rundown of the dream. And then later on you think about it and then you talk about it at dinner. Or you can just say, well, you know, I'm in a big hurry, I really can't talk about this.

It's not that turning away is necessarily hostile, it's just that over time there is a characteristic either of turning toward or turning away. So, couples who are heading for divorce, you know, 60 to 80 percent of the time they're turning away from one another. And couples whose marriages are going very well, 60 to 80 percent of the time they're turning toward one another.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is John Gottman. He's a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, and he directs the Seattle Marital and Family Institute.

Let's take a short break, and then we'll talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.

(BREAK)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is John Gottman, and he directs the Seattle Marital and Family Institute.

OK, so, to sum up here, you're saying good marriages, they're not about how you handle the big conflicts. More about day-to-day life, how you handle day-to-day life, how you handle your affection for each other, your reactions to each other.

GOTTMAN: Exactly.

GROSS: Now, say someone has pointed out to you that you don't express fondness very clearly. Even if you feel it, you're not verbally expressing it. Say that's just your character type. Is that something that you can really change in a way that's going help your spouse feel more confident about your feelings?

GOTTMAN: One of the things that we work on that's sort of related to this is that, you know, we look at how people resolve problems. It turns out that, you know, when you select a relationship, when you select a person to be close to, you automatically are selecting a set of unresolvable perpetual problems that you'll never resolve.

LAUGHTER

And that, you know, if you married somebody else or you got into a relationship with somebody else, you'd have a different set of perpetual problems you'll never resolve.

And some couples sort of establish a dialogue with these problems. And actually, it turned out when we analyzed this that about 56 percent of all the problems that couples had were of this kind, where they had a dialogue with problems like he was not as affectionate as she would like. Or, you know, maybe he was a loner and she was very gregarious. Or, you know, he was very neat and she was, you know, really untidy.

This is a problem that they'll have their whole lives together. And some couples kind of come to a peace with that. It's not that they're happy about it. They have a kind of dialogue with it. It's like it's a soccer ball between them that they kick around every now and then.

And there's a lot of acceptance and understanding and humor and amusement about the problem, even though they're actually trying to change it all the time, make it a little better. And that, the thing you described, is very much like that.

And the problem becomes when you get really a lot of pain around these problems. I'll give you an example of this, you know. In this case you get kind of a gridlock situation.

And one example was a husband who wanted to spend more time with his friends. And his wife was very upset about this because what the friends did was they went to topless bars, and he flirted with women. And he couldn't understand why his wife was bothered by that. And this kept being a source of tremendous pain between the two of them.

So, one of the things that we need to do, and we try to do in our workshops and in the therapy, is to move these gridlock conflicts that cause a great deal of pain and suffering to dialogue with perpetual problems.

In other words, the problem doesn't go away, it's never gonna go away, but with marriages that are working well and with longer relationships, long-term relationships, people kind of learn to accept the differences between them and live with them, even though they're still trying to change them slightly and make them better over time.

GROSS: You know, you're talking about the importance of talking about your differences in the relationship. But even the threshold at which you're able and willing to talk about a difference is a difference in the relationship.

GOTTMAN: Absolutely.

GROSS: I mean, often one partner really likes to talk about the relationship and work on the relationship...

GOTTMAN: Right.

GROSS: ... and the other partner hates stuff like that, hates those talks.

GOTTMAN: That's right. Yeah, we even have a name for it. It's called the "pursuer-distancer pattern." And usually.

GROSS: That's what I call it -- no.

LAUGHTER

GOTTMAN: You know, one person pursues the issue and the other one tries to become distance from it.

GROSS: Right. Right.

GOTTMAN: Yeah. And usually it's the woman who is the pursuer and the male who's the distancer. That's usually the situation, although it does vary a great deal.

This is characteristic of most marriages, although the problem gets accentuated when there is a lot of continued hostility in the marriage.

GROSS: Well, when you're working with a couple and one person likes to talk about the relationship and the other person hates to talk about the relationship, what advice do you give the couple about how to deal with talking about the relationship?

GOTTMAN: Usually the one who wants to talk about the relationship wins. You know, it's sort of like a situation like the neater person usually wins in these conflicts about neatness. The person who has more concerns is usually the one who wins because the important dimension is being able to respond emotionally to your partner and to have some kind of emotional connection.

And what really becomes an issue is if, you know, the person who really wants to talk feels unresponded to and becomes kind of desperate in this attempt to really be understood and to really have a connection, an emotional connection with a partner. So, usually the one who doesn't like to talk about it comes up a bit in, you know, in their willingness to talk about it.

GROSS: Well, you make an interesting distinction between a complaint and a criticism, and the way complaints and criticisms are verbalized. What are the issues there?

GOTTMAN: Well, the difference is that when you complain, you're really talking about something you're upset about, and it's not really kind of a global blaming and attack on your partner's personality. So, if I say to my wife something like, you know, I'm really upset that you talked about your day during dinner and you never asked me anything about my day, that would be a complaint.

But if I then add, you know, what's wrong with you, I mean what kind of a person would do something like that, why do you treat me this way? Then, it's gonna make my partner really defensive. It's kind of like I'm saying, you know, there's something wrong with her character, something wrong with her personality.

And she's gotta say, well, you know, I listen to you a lot of times, and sometimes you don't listen to me. And then it gets very defensive.

GROSS: So, what advice would you have about how to make -- state a complaint without it escalating into criticism that leads to defensiveness and more anger?

GOTTMAN: Well, we have a thing that we teach couples to do which we call "soften start-up." You know, the way they start up a complaint really matters.

One of the things that's real important in this is sort of the way you say things and how you present things.

Like, for example, I could, you know, let's say I've been feeling pretty distant from my wife, you know, I can say you are so emotionally distant from me, you're emotionally unavailable, you know, and I'm fed up with it.

Or I could say, you know, I've really been missing you lately. And you know last week when we were on the couch and we were kissing, how could we do more of that, you know, I really miss that, you know, in our day. We're getting so stressed that we're not really doing that.

So, in a way it really communicates the same thing, but one way of presenting a complaint is pretty flattering...

GROSS: Yeah. Yeah.

GOTTMAN: ... you know, it's really saying, you know, I want more of you, you know, I really like you, I really want more of you. And the other one's saying, there's something wrong with you. So, they really look for, you know, a way of saying it that softens it, makes the partner less defensive.

GROSS: You've worked with people who are violent, with couples in which one of the partners is abusive. Do you think people like that can change?

GOTTMAN: Well, you know, for the last eight years, Neal Jacobson, my colleague, and I have been studying these violent marriages. And, you know, we have found that over time in most couples the physical violence declines significantly, it really does decline. And we found that in a number of these marriages the physical violence will end.

Unfortunately, in those cases we've also found when we analyze their video tapes that when the physical violence declines, the emotional abuse increases.

So, if you look at both emotional abuse and physical abuse, we only found one couple out of 62 couples where over time both the emotional abuse and the physical abuse ended. So, I'm pretty pessimistic about these things going away by themselves.

GROSS: What qualifies as emotional abuse?

GOTTMAN: There are two forms of it that we discovered. One of them is really just humiliating the partner in public, doing things like forcing the partner to accept sexual practices that are repugnant to the partner, controlling the partner's life and threatening to destroy property and pets. These are, you now, these are the dimensions of emotional abuse.

There's a second form that is even more insidious that we call "gaslighting," which comes from the movie "Gaslight" with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, where he's married to her and he's trying to convince her that she's insane.

This kind of insidious kind of undermining of the woman's world view is even more controlling and even more powerful than standard forms of emotional abuse. And I think we saw it in the Steinberg-Nussbaum case where, you know, Steinberg really completely controlled Nussbaum's consciousness about how to see the world.

These men are often very charismatic for the women that they're involved with. And this gaslighting thing is very common of abusive men who are really jealous and really have this terror of being abandoned.

GROSS: Dr. John Gottman directs the Seattle Marital and Family Institute. He'll be back with us in the second half of our show.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(BREAK)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Back with John Gottman, director of the Seattle Marital and Family Institute. He's spent the past 25 years observing how couples interact and working with couples who are having difficulty dealing with conflicts.

When we left off, we were talking about abusive relationships. I asked Dr. Gottman what he's learned about why some men abuse women in order to control them.

GOTTMAN: They really have a lot of trouble connecting with a woman and I think really having intimate relationships in general. And in some ways the conflict becomes the center of the way of connecting to the partner. It's, you know, it is the way.

I mean one of the things that's really very interesting about all of these violent couples is they don't have very much fun. I mean they don't do stuff like go to the zoo, you know, or go to the circus on the weekends and, you know, have a lot of laughs and kid around or sit around and, you know, in a warm bath tub and, you know, and drink wine together.

A lot of times the way they meet, they way they sort of join each other, is through the arguments and through the conflict.

And for these guys, a lot of what they're doing is trying to work out real major childhood trauma where they've been, you know, abandoned in the case of these guys who really fear abandonment and are very jealous or they've been very controlled as children and really abused and they've somehow decided, either consciously or unconsciously, that they're never gonna be controlled again.

So, that's, you know, I don't know if that's a good answer to your question. It's not really that they're -- I don't think they're really thinking out this. It's more sort of automatic, this, you know, this control in a relationship.

GROSS: So, when you're working with a violent couple, are you likely to say to them, you'd be better off splitting up, this relationship is unlikely to be repaired?

GOTTMAN: Yes. You know, unfortunately you can't really say that because what that winds up doing is really alienating the woman and making her feel like she's nuts for staying with this guy, you know, and there's something wrong with her for continuing to be in this relationship.

Part of what we discovered is that what keeps women in these relationships is they love these guys and they identify with their struggles and they really sort of are on their side. And through this process of really sort of being on the side of these guys and loving them, they really have developed a dream about what this guy could become.

And until they're ready to give up that dream, they're gonna stay in that relationship, they're gonna forgive the men for doing what they've done to them, even -- I mean some of these women are suffering internal organ damage and broken bones and, you know, really very serious violence, and they're still staying in there.

But there comes a point -- when we studied the women who really successfully divorced these guys -- that the women give up the dream. A lot of times it takes a near-death experience in a violent episode to make a woman do that.

GROSS: Do you feel optimistic that people are capable of change and therefore that relationships that are having trouble are capable of being repaired?

GOTTMAN: Yes. I feel very optimistic.

And, I mean, in fact, you know, Terry, I think of myself as very much like the 15th-century Portuguese map makers who were mapping the Atlantic Ocean for people like Christopher Columbus. You know, we scientists who study relationships are really like these map makers. We're finding that there really are things we can learn about relationships, that, you know, we can develop some kind of a map.

Marriage doesn't come with a manual and babies don't come with a manual, so a lot of what I think is necessary is just education. People have to know things about what's gonna happen to them when they, you know, when they first get married, and then they become parents and they have a baby on their hands, you know.

And 75 percent of all couples after the baby's born, three months after the baby's born, experience a precipitous drop in marital happiness that leads to divorce. Half of all the divorces occur in the first seven years of marriage.

Now, what is it that people can do to buffer themselves from this drop in marital? And we know the answer now, particularly for guys. You know, the emotionally intelligent husband is a reality.

And so it seems like men can learn about how to be in relationships. And the relationship can have this knowledge, and I think it can buffer marriages from this, the sort of natural shocks that happen, you know, as people try to have a relationship over time, a close relationship.

GROSS: When do you think it's too late to save a marriage?

GOTTMAN: Well, I think it's too late to save a marriage when the fondness and admiration system is dead, you know. If it's just a glowing ember, we can fan it into a flame. But if it's gone, if people no longer have respect for one another, if there's no affection there, then I don't think there's much you can do.

GROSS: You started studying relationships back in the '70s, right?

GOTTMAN: Correct, right.

GROSS: So, you've seen the results of the women's movement over the decades.

GOTTMAN: Yes.

GROSS: Do you think the women's movement has changed the relationships that you've been studying?

GOTTMAN: Absolutely. I think it's the single major thing that's happened worldwide that has affected families everywhere. I think it's the most important change that has taken place in families.

Not that it's happening everywhere, you know, there are some places really resistant to it. But in the United States, the loss of the breadwinner role as women have entered the work force and not only have made some money, but also have had jobs that are meaningful, has been really very big, it's really affected men in particular.

And men are casting around, you know, really looking everywhere for how to be in families, how to be a good husband, how to be a good father. I think men are lost.

GROSS: Do you think that you're able to use the results of your work at home? I mean can you apply what you know scientifically to your own marriage?

GOTTMAN: I try.

LAUGHTER

And my wife tries. So, yeah, we, you know, find that, you know, once, once we've learned something and, you know, it seems to work and make sense, that we can really use it with one another and it's very effective.

Some of the times, you know, I wish the information had been available years before, you know. We could have saved ourselves a lot of pain.

But I think, you know, one of the things that I'm trying to do in doing this research is to find ways of changing people, you know, helping people change their relationships, that really are not that hard to do.

And, you know, I think a lot of the mistakes that we've made as marital therapists or people who have designed marital therapies is we've kind of tried to make people in general into psychologists, we've tried to convert them into psychologists.

And really what we should do is just the opposite -- find out how every day, you know, relationships work, how people are able to make those work and really build a psychology from that, from learning how people manage their relationships, because there are real masters out there at managing relationships, and there's a magic in the way they do it.

You know, if you know about these little moments in which you can turn toward one another or turn away, then you kind of become aware of them and you do it, and it actually works. All of this stuff really works.

GROSS: John Gottman, thank you very much for talking with us.

GOTTMAN: Thank you for having me, Terry. I enjoyed it.

GROSS: Dr. John Gottman directs the Seattle Marital and Family Institute. His books include "Why Marriages Fail and Succeed" and "The Heart of Parenting: Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child."

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: John Gottman
High: Psychologist John Gottman talks about what are some of the key factors that lead to either a good or bad marriage. He has studied hundreds of marriages, and found common behaviors that happy couples share. Gottman is author of "Why Marriages Succeed or Fail," "What Predicts Divorce" and "The Heart of Parenting." He is a professor of psychology at the University of Washington.
Spec: Marriage; Family; Children; Divorce; Health and Medicine
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright (c) 1997 National Public Radio, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. under license from National Public Radio, Inc. Formatting copyright (c) 1997 Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to National Public Radio, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission. For further information please contact NPR's Business Affairs at (202) 414-2954
End-Story: Marriage Success
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: DECEMBER 05, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 120502NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: A Prescription for the Blues
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:25

BARBARA BOGAEV, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev in for Terry Gross.

Pianist Horace Silver hasn't settled for just trying to repeat his old successes, namely his great quintet albums of the '50s and '60s, like "Song for my Father" and "Blowin' the Blues Away." He's branched out since then to make philosophical concept albums and records with brass sections and with singers.

But jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Silver fans just want new albums that sound like the old ones -- his new CD for instance.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "A PRESCRIPTION FOR THE BLUES")

KEVIN WHITEHEAD, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: There are good reasons why people want Horace Silver to clone his old LPs. Classics like the "Tokyo Blues" and "Horace Scope" are so listenable, fans have played then and played them until they know every note. All they ask for is something fresh in the same vein.

This time, that's just what we get.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "A PRESCRIPTION FOR THE BLUES")

The title track from Horace Silver's CD "A Prescription for the Blues." It's on the Impulse label.

For this quintet, Silver brought back a favorite drummer from the old days, Louis Hayes. On bass is Ron Carter, who assumes a background role which makes for a very nice rhythm section. Both of the horn players passed through Silver quintets in the '60s and '70s: Randy Brecker (ph) on trumpet and his Michael Brecker on tenor saxophone.

MUSIC RISES

Michael Brecker's saxophone sound was so familiar in the 1980s from records and TV, it gives this set an air of temporal dislocation. It sounds a little more modern than the '50s-style material, but still like something from another time.

Horace Silver's ridiculously catchy tunes are another puzzle. They have the nagging repetitive logic of a nursery rhyme, but there's something there for adults. Like his melodies, his piano solos are built from jazz's most basic ingredients: the blues; a Latin bump; and little trails blazed through chord progressions.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "BROTHER JOHN AND BROTHER GENE" (PH))

Horace Silver's "Brother John and Brother Gene." Now, it's not like every tune on this new CD is classic. Yeah, they can't all be gems. But the music works often enough to make you wonder how Silver keeps getting away with it. How can music so up-beat and chipper not be obnoxious?

BOGAEV: Kevin Whitehead is currently living in Amsterdam. He reviewed pianist Horace Silver's new album A Prescription for the Blues on the Impulse label.

Dateline: Kevin Whitehead, Amsterdam; Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia
Guest:
High: Jazz Critic Kevin Whitehead reviews the CD A Prescription for the Blues by jazz pianist Horace Silver.
Spec: Music Industry; A Prescription for the Blues
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: A Prescription for the Blues
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: DECEMBER 05, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 120503NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Paco Underhill
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:35

BARBARA BOGAEV, HOST: The holiday shopping season is in full swing. Major stores reported disappointing revenues over Thanksgiving, so you can be sure they're competing furiously for your Christmas dollars. My guest today dissects how shoppers shop, and advises stores on how they can lure you in and make you buy.

Paco Underhill is a retail anthropologist and the founder and president of Envirosell, a retail consulting firm whose clients include McDonald's, K-Mart, and Hewlett-Packard.

He and his colleagues have videotaped hour after hour of people shopping. What they've found is that most shoppers turn to the right when they enter a store, and most people won't notice the merchandise in the front of a store, which Underhill calls the "decompression zone."

And then there's the "butt brush" theory.

PACO UNDERHILL, RETAIL ANTHROPOLOGIST: Let me explain: I'm up at a counter. I'm looking at ties. I know that in order to purchase a tie, I need 45 seconds worth of peace.

If I have somebody brushing me from the rear, the chances of my having that 45 seconds of peace are significantly less. And therefore, I tend to come, look, and move on rather than have the time to be able to make that selection.

BOGAEV: Now, does it just amount to that? That we don't like risking getting our derrieres brushed?

LAUGHTER

Or is it a kind of an inter-animal space issue?

UNDERHILL: It's an inter-animal space, and I -- you have to understand, it's not just humans. It's generally mammals tend to be sensitive to being approached from the rear.

BOGAEV: Do we shop by touch? Is that something that you found in your videos? That people handle sweaters and shirts the way they choose ripe fruit in supermarkets?

UNDERHILL: We like to pet, and it's something --- we've actually tracked the number of times something has to be touched before it's bought here. We call it a product conversion ratio. And it's amazing the number of fingerprints that are on stuff on the floor of stores here.

Do you know that a typical lipstick has to be handled by eight people before it's bought? Isn't that enough to make you want to spray it with Lysol before you stick it in your purse?

BOGAEV: Oh, that is really disturbing. And that brings me to something else that I think you might -- maybe you've noticed -- in videos. I've seen people, and perhaps it's mostly woman, circle around something they're interested in a store, like an animal circling its prey.

UNDERHILL: I think it's interesting -- both that factor -- the other is that sales tend to come in strings. And let's say we have a perfume display at Nieman-Marcus and there are 12 sales that happen off that display over the course of an hour.

What happens is that those 12 sales all come in little strings. One person sees somebody shopping, and as soon as that person leaves, they come up 'cause they're curious. I mean, we are an intensely curious species about what other people are seeing or doing.

And that circling phenomena is often -- I like to think of it as a sort of "devil and angel" in somebody's head, you know, the angel is going: "just, now listen -- just take a look and walk on -- walk on by." And the devil is going: "ooh, let's go take a look. That looks pretty nice."

LAUGHTER

BOGAEV: Let's talk about positioning of a store. I thought it was interesting that you found that people tend to ignore stores that are placed next to federal buildings or post offices or banks or other non-retail establishments that don't have windows, obviously, with items in them to look at, because their eye doesn't go back to perusing windows until a certain number of feet after they pass the bank or the post office.

Did you figure this out also from videotape?

UNDERHILL: This is a -- been a well-documented piece of information that actually predates my days as a researcher. But the premise is simply that as somebody walks past a bank or an airline office, or a dull streetfront window, their pace tends to speed up.

And that since they aren't visually engaged with a window, once they pass that dull storefront, it takes them a little time to slow their pace back down and for their peripheral vision to expand, which is the reason why a good commercial real estate manager or a good city manager will think about the positionings of different types of businesses on a street in a way that they don't hurt each other.

BOGAEV: How do men and women differ in how they shop?

UNDERHILL: Couple of -- couple of things here. I think first of all, let's just take the grocery store. Men seem to extract more pleasure out of the grocery store than women do. And I think most spouse will argue that when they send their husband off to the grocery store to do the family shopping that they spend more time, they spend more money, and they get more extraneous stuff.

We also know that men often, in certain product or retail categories, tend to be more buyers than shoppers. If I, as a male, walk into Victoria's Secret, I'm not there to visit a temple of sensuality. I'm there -- I'm probably embarrassed, but I'm there because I have something that I'd like to buy, but I'm not quite sure what.

In general, it's a good idea from the store's perspective, if you see a man walk into a lingerie section, serve him quickly and try to trade him up. He'll probably spend more money than he thought. He needs some help. He'd like to walk out the door pretty quickly, and preferably take something away in a plain brown bag. OK?

If I go to the printer aisle at CompUSA, if a woman walks in, she's not there because she's just read a piece in PC Magazine, generally. She's not there to visit a temple of technology. She's there because women are the -- are the largest emerging entrepreneurial class in America. They are there because they need a technology. They're not there, often, with the fascination for tools.

And yet, the level of service that a woman gets walking into a computer store here is significantly less than a man gets. Yet they convert at a higher -- at a higher ratio. They are willing to listen, but they need to walk out with a product in their hands, because it's something that's driven.

BOGAEV: My guest is Paco Underhill. He's the president and founder of Envirosell, and that's a company that offers consulting services to retail stores about how people shop.

Let's talk now about the senior citizen consumer group. You say that that is the biggest consumer population now that stores aren't targeting correctly -- besides women, I assume. How should they target senior citizens? Or, how should their approach be different to attract senior citizens rather than the middle aged or families or men or the rest of the consumer world?

UNDERHILL: I think the issue here is not just the issue of seniors. The issue is understanding that America's consumer base is aging. Period. And that at 45, I don't consider myself a senior, and yet many of the same issues that seniors are concerned with increasingly affect me.

BOGAEV: Like what?

UNDERHILL: For example, nobody is going to go broke going into the 21st century assuming a lot of us should be wearing our reading glasses and aren't. That's theme one.

Theme two is recognizing that -- if you're a store -- that a chair is no longer an amenity. It's a marketing tool; that if I and my significant other walk into The Limited, and she has a place to comfortably plant me, she becomes a much more effective shopper because she knows I'm comfortable. I'm not going: "honey now, can we leave now? I've got nothing to do."

BOGAEV: Let's talk about kids and shopping, and especially parents with kids, trying to shop. I've noticed here in Philadelphia there's a store -- IKEA -- which has a place where you can park your kids for half an hour while you go and shop, and they're well -- well, pretty well cared for, I hope.

Now, I've made more ill-considered snap buys because I had to frantically fit all the shopping into just 30 minutes. It's like playing "beat the clock." And it seems like a brilliant idea. I'm surprised not -- there aren't more stores of that size who've caught on to that.

UNDERHILL: One of the things about the changing dynamics of the American family is that as more family -- as there are more families where both mother and father work, we have noticed the trend over the past 10 years that we're taking our kids to a greater variety of places.

And I would argue that this is not just true in -- at places like IKEA, but I can remember trying to get across to senior officials at a major California bank that 12 percent of the bodies walking in the door at a typical suburban bank are under age seven. And that if you haven't included some form of childproofing criteria to your furniture selections, you're being foolish.

But this issue of childproofing a retail environment or thinking about children on the floor of a store, is something that we as American retailers aren't always doing the best possible job.

For example, in France and in Italy, many grocery stores and mass merchandisers or hyper-markets; provide kid-sized shopping -- shopping carts, which is in effect teaching the kids to become good consumers. But it also gives them something to do here; they have something, you know, to push as they move through the store.

The -- we're dealing with another problem here in the U.S. as it relates to kids is that unlike France and Germany, we are often unwilling to leave our kids in the care of a stranger. And that as successful as IKEA is, there are many American, you know, families where the basic level of paranoia as it relates to their children is still very high.

BOGAEV: Is it still a mystery to you what people buy and why people buy what they do? Or, what they look for in shopping? And I'm thinking that there are all sorts of theories that are, I guess, half in jest about how shopping for us today is what hunting and gathering was for us back in prehistoric time.

UNDERHILL: Well, let's be cognizant of two things. And first, we are a social species and that shopping has always been the opportunity that we've used since our time as hunters and gatherers simply to look at each other. And that's a lot of what drives us to the marketplace, whether we are in Papua-New Guinea or at the local Newport Mall.

On the other hand, here, just to -- is that there is damn little at this point in our lives that we actually need. And that the reason we're out there in a commercial environment is to enjoy ourselves and to have a certain entertainment.

And I think it's no irony as we move into the 21st century that more and more retailers are focused on our pleasure in shopping; that the rise of the Disney store or Nike Town or the new Paramount store about to open in Chicago is all focused on, you know: how can I give somebody a pleasurable experience from the moment I walk in the door?

BOGAEV: Paco Underhill is the founder and president of Envirosell, a retail consulting firm.

Dateline: Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia
Guest: Paco Underhill
High: "Retail Anthropologist" Paco Underhill. He studies and tracks the habits of shoppers in order to learn the best way to lead them to make purchases. His retail consulting firm, Envirosell, has helped big-name companies such as McDonald's, Levi Strauss, and Blockbuster to study their customers' browsing and buying habits.
Spec: Business; Shopping; Paco Underhill; Envirosell
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Paco Underhill
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: DECEMBER 05, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 120504NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Good Will Hunting
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:55

BARBARA BOGAEV, HOST: The young actor Matt Damon is suddenly everywhere. He's on the cover of Vanity Fair, in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Rainmaker," and he stars in the new film "Good Will Hunting," directed by Gus Van Sant.

Our film critic John Powers has this review.

JOHN POWERS, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: There's been so much recent hype about the actor Matt Damon that I expected him to be just another pretty stiff, like Matthew McConaghey or Julia Ormond. Then I saw Good Will Hunting. Damon plays Will Hunting, a cosmic genius on the order of a Mozart or Einstein.

But this 20-year-old isn't your ordinary prodigy. He's an explosive street kid from the south side of Boston who works as a janitor at MIT and spends his free time carousing, sometimes violently, with his working class buddies.

His brilliance is discovered by an MIT big shot who helps Will escape a jail term for assaulting an old enemy. This ambitious professor pushes Will toward a serious intellectual career and by court order he hooks him up with a shrink named Sean McGuire, who's played by Robin Williams.

Although still tormented by his wife's death from cancer, McGuire takes on the task of rescuing Will from his self-destructiveness. Not only do the two become close, almost like father and son, but the relationship helps them both.

The fine balance of their interaction is obvious when McGuire asks Will about his date with a Harvard student.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "GOOD WILL HUNTING")

MATT DAMON, ACTOR, AS WILL HUNTING: I went on a date last week.

ROBIN WILLIAMS, ACTOR, AS SEAN MCGUIRE: How did it go?

DAMON: It was good.

WILLIAMS: Going out again.

DAMON: I don't know.

WILLIAMS: Why not?

DAMON: Haven't called her.

WILLIAMS: Christ, you're an amateur.

DAMON: It's different from most of the girls I've been with.

WILLIAMS: So call her up, Romeo.

DAMON: But this girl's perfect, and I don't want ruin that.

WILLIAMS: Maybe you're perfect right now. Maybe you don't want to ruin that. I think that's a super philosophy, Will. That way, you can go through your entire life without ever having to really know anybody.

DAMON: You ever think about getting remarried?

WILLIAMS: My wife's dead.

DAMON: Hence the word "remarried."

WILLIAMS: She's dead.

DAMON: Well, I think that's a super philosophy, Sean. I mean, that way you could actually go through the rest of your life without ever really knowing anybody.

WILLIAMS: Time's up.

POWERS: Damon Coe (ph) wrote the script with Ben Affleck (ph), the star of "Chasing Amy," who here plays Will's best pal Chuckie. The two have been real-life buddies since childhood and their screenplay's sharpest moments comes when Will is drinking and wisecracking with his home boys. Unfortunately, as the movie progresses, these street scenes become rarer and the story turns into another of those inspirational movies about hugging and healing.

We come to see Will as a victim, not a potential Latrell Sprewell. And McGuire cures him so efficiently that therapy appears to be as easy as getting your oil changed. At one point, McGuire lectures Will about the difference between knowing something from books and knowing it from experience.

You could say the same thing about Good Will Hunting, which seems to have been cobbled together from old movies like "Ordinary People," "Searching for Bobby Fischer," and even "Rocky." Although supposedly about an intellectual titan, there's not a single idea in it.

The script's morass of cliches is put across proficiently by director Gus Van Sant, who pushes all the necessary buttons: cue the soppy music. While such empty professionalism would be acceptable from a Hollywood hack, it's depressing from Van Sant, whose first three movies "Mala Noche," (ph) "Drugstore Cowboy," and "My Own Private Idaho" made him one of our best and most iconoclastic filmmakers.

There's no scene here to approach the surreal flourishes in My Own Private Idaho, where a pinup photo comes to life or a house falls from the sky as a metaphor for orgasm. On the contrary, the whole movie builds to the kind of dishonest happy ending Van Sant's always despised.

In fact, the only evidence that this is a Van Sant movie is his handling of Damon. Van Sant has always had a flair with young male actors, getting Matt Dillon's best-ever work in Drugstore Cowboy and a haunting turn from River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho.

Here, he discovers a sensitive Matt Damon that's wholly missing from The Rainmaker. Without ever seeming to act, Damon captures Will's many facets -- his spiky pleasure in his own verbal prowess; his little boy fear that such aggressive wordplay masks; his gnawing sense of separation from enemy and friend alike; and even the radiance of his genius.

No film this year has been carried so far by a single performance. Damon rises so high above his own script that each time he comes on screen, we can almost forget that Good Will Hunting is actually bad filmmaking.

BOGAEV: John Powers is film critic for Vogue.

Dateline: John Powers; Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia
Guest:
High: Film Critic John Powers reviews Good Will Hunting which stars Robin Williams and Matt Damon.
Spec: Movie Industry; Good Will Hunting
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Good Will Hunting
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?

Advertisement

Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR

52:30

A journalist's plea to the West: 'Pay attention to Ukraine and its fate'

Journalist Luke Harding began reporting from Ukraine in December 2021 and was in the country's capital of Kyiv on Feb. 23, the night before the Russian invasion began. He's been reporting from the war for the British newspaper The Guardian ever since.

52:30

'Armageddon Time' director explores how the world is ruined by 'well-meaning people'

James Gray's new film was inspired by his childhood in Queens in the 1980s. Though his grandparents had fled antisemitism in Ukraine, his family didn't recognize their own biases against Black people.

29:36

'Fresh Air' marks the centennial of Charles Schulz, creator of Charlie Brown

Schulz, who died in 2000, spoke in 1990 about his iconic Peanuts comic strip. Plus, jazz critic Kevin Whitehead talks about pianist Vince Guaraldi, who created the music for A Charlie Brown Christmas.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue