Non-Smoking Man

Cognitive Bias

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This is a concept in Psychology which is complex, very interesting and relevant to us all on this Forum (or any other hifi forum).

But I cant remember any thread or post dealing with it comprehensively or adequately.

Here are a few types of cognitive bias that I have selected from a bigger list. They  show the COMPLEXITY and DIVERSITY of this phenomenon:

1. Anchoring Effect - Relying too heavily on an irrelevant piece of information...;

2. Availability heuristic - Overestimating the likelihood of something happening because a similar event has happened recently or because we feel emotional about a similar event;

3.Confirmation bias: The tendency to remember only what supports the persons views;

4. IKEA effect : where people place an overly high value on what they have either fully or partially assembled themselves ;

5. Overconfidence effect : the phenomenon of overconfidence in answering questions;

6. Optimism Bias : where people tend to be overly confident about their plans and decisions;

7. Planning fallacy : the tendency to underestimate the time it will take to complete a task;

8. Sunk Cost Bias : a tendency to continue a behaviour as a result of previously invested resources (time, energy, money).

The RELEVANCY of 'cognitive bias' is to do with how we all invest in and evaluate hifi equipment (and records and CDs).

For example if we are all (equally?) subject to error-inducing psychological factors, how can we rationally assemble a cost effective and satisfying system?

Another question that arises is, given that a number of people have succeeded in assembling a good system on a limited budget, is the phenomenon of 'cognitive bias' overly exagerated when it comes to savvy, experienced audiophiles? After all, you might argue there is such a degree of agreement as to the best sounding piece of equipment based on comparisons  at a bake off in the same place and at the same time, that most people get it 'right'.

A phrase I hear in h fi circles is 'expectation bias'. I take it this means that if I or you go into a demo room or someones living room with a lot of expensive/well regarded kit we would tend to view the sound positively because we have predicted it will be and this will effect our perceptions. If true can I point out that it would be unlikely for us to be ever 'disappointed'. Expectation bias tends to (wrongly) logically rule out the possiblity of disappointment. (And what happened to 'expectation prejudice'?)

Anyone on here studying this subject or  working in this field in psychology ?

If so, how, in particular, would you say your studies are relevant to the world of Hi Fi?

Jack NSM

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9 minutes ago, Non-Smoking Man said:

The RELEVANCY of 'cognitive bias' is to do with how we all invest in and evaluate hifi equipment (and records and CDs).

For example if we are all (equally?) subject to error-inducing psychological factors, how can we rationally assemble a cost effective and satisfying system?

Another question that arises is, given that a number of people have succeeded in assembling a good system on a limited budget, is the phenomenon of 'cognitive bias' overly exagerated when it comes to savvy, experienced audiophiles? After all, you might argue there is such a degree of agreement as to the best sounding piece of equipment based on comparisons  at a bake off in the same place and at the same time, that most people get it 'right'.

A phrase I hear in h fi circles is 'expectation bias'. I take it this means that if I or you go into a demo room or someones living room with a lot of expensive/well regarded we would tend to view the sound positively because we have predicted it will be and this will effect our perceptions. If true can I point out that it would be unlikely for us to be ever 'disappointed'. Expectation bias tends to (wrongly) logically rule out the possiblity of disappointment. (And what happened to 'expectation prejudice'?)

Anyone on here studying this subject or  working in this field?

Jack NSM

Not studying this nor claiming to have an expert opinion, but I have embraced my subjectiveness as -that- is the only thing I need to, or am able to, satisfy.

You can't exclude yourself from your own experiment, so the obvious conclusion is to explicitely include yourself. You like something? So it's good then. Don't like it? It probably sucked anyway.

There is no way you're going to be able to listen objectively, so don't. Just pour your favourite beverage, sit back and enjoy the show.  I know for sure a nice Crianza improves my setup, or increases my willingness to order my next purchase.

If we would be objective, we would all have bought the same setups and play the same music, and we don't.

BTW Expectation bias works both ways, but are you happy or disappointed if your disappointment was confimed? That's probably more philosophical than psychological isn't it?

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I always found the answer to be - at shows and in dem rooms and listening to other peoples systems - is to shut your eyes and focus on the music.  The thing about bias is being aware.  If we know we have a bias then you can take steps to not let it influence your decision.

The problem usually arises from people being biased but being totally unaware that they are - then they will display the symptoms you list above.

It is part of the benchmarks I try to instill in anyone choosing kit - namely

Use your ears not your eyes and most importantly if you think something is better and it costs a lot more - does it sound that many £s better.  Reviewers make it sound like things are a massive improvement but in reality the differences as you move up the scale are small.  Listen and take it in - then go home and put your own system on and sit back and listen.  Are there things missing or not as good as you were hearing on another system?  If all sounds good then you have your answer - nope no need to change anything

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24 minutes ago, uzzy said:

I always found the answer to be - at shows and in dem rooms and listening to other peoples systems - is to shut your eyes and focus on the music.  The thing about bias is being aware.  If we know we have a bias then you can take steps to not let it influence your decision.

The problem usually arises from people being biased but being totally unaware that they are - then they will display the symptoms you list above.

It is part of the benchmarks I try to instill in anyone choosing kit - namely

Use your ears not your eyes and most importantly if you think something is better and it costs a lot more - does it sound that many £s better.  Reviewers make it sound like things are a massive improvement but in reality the differences as you move up the scale are small.  Listen and take it in - then go home and put your own system on and sit back and listen.  Are there things missing or not as good as you were hearing on another system?  If all sounds good then you have your answer - nope no need to change anything

The thing about bias in hi-fi situations is that you can not "take steps to not let it influence your decision", it simply does nor work that way.

The only way to remove bias is to listen 'blind' and match levels. Since blind tests rarely if ever give the 'correct' results they are consistently poo-pooed by hi-fi enthusiasts. 

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Super Wammer
29 minutes ago, uzzy said:

.......Reviewers make it sound like things are a massive improvement but in reality the differences as you move up the scale are small......

It's called the law of diminishing returns.  Quality follows an exponential curve and once your on the steep part of the curve any perceived increase in quality requires many times more the increase in cost than lower down the curve.

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1 minute ago, MGTOW said:

The thing about bias in hi-fi situations is that you can not "take steps to not let it influence your decision", it simply does nor work that way.

i disagree - I loved the looks of the Oracle and chose a Systemdek because to my ears it sounded better.  If you cannot control you bias then if you think about it you would become a kind of pariah  (if you were an employer and have a dislike for fat or ginger people you wouldn't employ them or treat them differently but if you realise you have such dislikes you can be more rational in your thinking).

The problem "bias" is those people so blind they will not listen to kit by other than certain manufacturers and if they do will convince themselves it cannot sound as good.  The same is true of people who think if it is not valves it cannot be any good and refuse to listen constructively to anything else.  

So I maintain provided you are aware of your bias, then you can take steps (if you want to) to overcome it.  However, there will always be a time where something for whatever reason (how ever good it sounds) is so ugly we could not live with it with our eyes open and in those circumstances we might have to search for something that satisfies our aesthetics and sounds as good.  Nowt wrong with that.  

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Good post Jack....

And where's Keith :D

And not you Keith (MF1000) :)

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35 minutes ago, uzzy said:

i disagree - I loved the looks of the Oracle and chose a Systemdek because to my ears it sounded better.  If you cannot control you bias then if you think about it you would become a kind of pariah  (if you were an employer and have a dislike for fat or ginger people you wouldn't employ them or treat them differently but if you realise you have such dislikes you can be more rational in your thinking).

The problem "bias" is those people so blind they will not listen to kit by other than certain manufacturers and if they do will convince themselves it cannot sound as good.  The same is true of people who think if it is not valves it cannot be any good and refuse to listen constructively to anything else.  

So I maintain provided you are aware of your bias, then you can take steps (if you want to) to overcome it.  However, there will always be a time where something for whatever reason (how ever good it sounds) is so ugly we could not live with it with our eyes open and in those circumstances we might have to search for something that satisfies our aesthetics and sounds as good.  Nowt wrong with that.  

Sorry Uzzy, but that is complete nonsense.

The kind of issues being discussed here, mainly confirmation or expectation bias are simply not under your conscious control.

I am not going to lecture or argue about this but these are all psychological effects that are well understood, though not by hi-fi enthusiasts.

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Super Dealer
8 minutes ago, MGTOW said:

Sorry Uzzy, but that is complete nonsense.

The kind of issues being discussed here, mainly confirmation or expectation bias are simply not under your conscious control.

I am not going to lecture or argue about this but these are all psychological effects that are well understood, though not by hi-fi enthusiasts.

This absolutely, I would only add that once you compare unsighted and level matched ( to 0.1dB ideally ) the results are often  revelatory , if only all those cable believers would try it!

Keith

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@Keith

Slightly off topic, but do I recall correctly that, a fe years ago now, you had rather a soft spot for some rather inexpensive 'pro type' actives?

I managed to try a pair at a local music shop, very decent value I thought.

They got me into the idea of using such speakers in high performance budget hi-fi systems.

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Super Dealer

Yes MG I do like actives, the advances in audio tend to come from the ‘pro’ arena, ime.

Keith

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46 minutes ago, MGTOW said:

@Keith

Slightly off topic, but do I recall correctly that, a fe years ago now, you had rather a soft spot for some rather inexpensive 'pro type' actives?

I managed to try a pair at a local music shop, very decent value I thought.

They got me into the idea of using such speakers in high performance budget hi-fi systems.

Cognitive bias at play- according to some lol 

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3 hours ago, Non-Smoking Man said:

This is a concept in Psychology which is complex, very interesting and relevant to us all on this Forum (or any other hifi forum).

But I cant remember any thread or post dealing with it comprehensively or adequately.

Here are a few types of cognitive bias that I have selected from a bigger list. They  show the COMPLEXITY and DIVERSITY of this phenomenon:

1. Anchoring Effect - Relying too heavily on an irrelevant piece of information...;

2. Availability heuristic - Overestimating the likelihood of something happening because a similar event has happened recently or because we feel emotional about a similar event;

3.Confirmation bias: The tendency to remember only what supports the persons views;

4. IKEA effect : where people place an overly high value on what they have either fully or partially assembled themselves ;

5. Overconfidence effect : the phenomenon of overconfidence in answering questions;

6. Optimism Bias : where people tend to be overly confident about their plans and decisions;

7. Planning fallacy : the tendency to underestimate the time it will take to complete a task;

8. Sunk Cost Bias : a tendency to continue a behaviour as a result of previously invested resources (time, energy, money).

The RELEVANCY of 'cognitive bias' is to do with how we all invest in and evaluate hifi equipment (and records and CDs).

For example if we are all (equally?) subject to error-inducing psychological factors, how can we rationally assemble a cost effective and satisfying system?

Another question that arises is, given that a number of people have succeeded in assembling a good system on a limited budget, is the phenomenon of 'cognitive bias' overly exagerated when it comes to savvy, experienced audiophiles? After all, you might argue there is such a degree of agreement as to the best sounding piece of equipment based on comparisons  at a bake off in the same place and at the same time, that most people get it 'right'.

A phrase I hear in h fi circles is 'expectation bias'. I take it this means that if I or you go into a demo room or someones living room with a lot of expensive/well regarded we would tend to view the sound positively because we have predicted it will be and this will effect our perceptions. If true can I point out that it would be unlikely for us to be ever 'disappointed'. Expectation bias tends to (wrongly) logically rule out the possiblity of disappointment. (And what happened to 'expectation prejudice'?)

Anyone on here studying this subject or  working in this field in psychology ?

If so, how, in particular, would you say your studies are relevant to the world of Hi Fi?

Jack NSM

The problem is...

when "cognitive bias" is introduce into a hi-f discussion, it immediately becomes "reductio ad Hitlerum" and ...hopefully, ends that discussion.

:hom:

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This has been discussed before and as we are dealing with people then there will always be biases and prejudices. The saving grace is that as you only have to please yourself then they do not matter as you are the beneficiary. If you like deep bass and this hifi is stunning but can't reproduce bass below 30 Hz then it is not for you.

What for me is difficult is the pseudo-scientists who hide behind their views as science as it proves their point and all it is just dogma. If you do this test, this way and only controlling this parameter then you get my wanted result. And if it is repeated this way you find there are no differences between every SS amplifier, CD, DAC, cables etc. OK if that is what you believe then great but please do not try to dress it up as science because it is not. You are trying to get rid of one issue but you have used a test that actually cancels out all differences.

If you want to test a new drug you go through a HUGE and complex set of tests to try to correctly reduce personal effects. This makes them very expensive. But what helps is that normally these tests have a clear endpoint; a cure for leukaemia for which there is a clearly defined outcome. Now try the same test for drugs that help with psychological issues where the endpoint involves a less clearly defined outcome. For some conditions like depression there are clear outward signs so they become a little easier. But the variables are still large and these test can be inconclusive. And some pharma companies were not above doing them repeatedly until they got a positive result and publishing that result. Hopefully, that practice has stopped. 

Now make the test one where the person has a preference and all bets are off and most scientists will try to avoid them (if they have any sense). So trying to account for people's variances, biases and prejudices becomes extremely difficult. You can say I will try to reduce them by ensuring the same volume levels are used and that is easy and for most people that is straightforward. But blind tests? Forget it. It is a test that always produces the same zero result for most audio products. It is not the test as that is what all of science says. Tripe.

Who buys audio with a blind test? No dealers offer it because it is a PITA and it is disrespectful for the buyer. And as dealers like Serge found you go out of business going down that route. I suspect no one asks for it either.

So how can you reduce these issues? Forget A/B tests they will only test volume levels and frequency response. Try to get to hear the components for a day or so and then replace them back and listen to determine if there is a real change and if it is worth it.

Remember it is an audio system. The music is there to induce an emotional response in you. If the system does not let the music do that, do not bother. Yes, it may impress friends, or audionuts looking at measurements, or pseudo-techies with double-blind statistically analysed tests. It is your audio system and it is there for YOU.

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