Paul writes here about the Placebo Effect in high end audio and I agree with most of what he says, 100%.
I think in the large majority of times, if you give someone expectations of what they will hear, chances are pretty good that they will hear what is described to them. I’ve seen this a lot.
We’re conditioned by our culture to believe that bias affects opinion. That if we’re told something’s going to be a certain way that’s what we’ll experience.
I would argue that’s true only in some circumstances.
If I tell you to try on a shirt because it’ll look great, you’ll have an expectation that biases you. If I am right, that’s wonderful. But if I am not, will you be fooled into believing what’s not true? Unlikely.
“Here, take a bite of this. It’s wonderful.” Sometimes yes, often times no.
If we’re told a new audio cable or audio equipment sounds a certain way we’re likely to have that expectation going into a listening session. Yet, if it sounds the opposite we reject it even harder than if we hadn’t been biased.
Now we’ve been fooled.
So where does this notion of bias falsely swaying people come from? The Placebo Effect. Placebos work for two reasons: our belief in them and their ineffectiveness. You can’t have an effective placebo without both conditions. If I tell you a spoonful of lemon tastes sweet, no amount of belief is going to change your pucker factor. But, if I tell you you’ll have fewer aches and pains by taking this little yellow pill with a neutral agent inside, you might well feel less pain.
The point of this post is simple. Bias changes opinions when the differences between devices under test are either non-existent or minimal.
When there is an actual difference between two devices or services, a bias in any one direction will not sway the outcome.
It’s easy to make sweeping judgments but they are not always right.