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Demoing and the mere-exposure effect

Jame5

New member
Jun 10, 2010
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Prompted by another thread on which songs to use for hi fi demos and a book I'm reading at the moment, I thought people might be interested to read about the mere-exposure effect. Essentially, we are predisposed to negative emotions about unfamiliar things and to positive emotions about familiar things. Most interestingly, this is a sub-conscious effect, so an exposure might not have been conscious (e.g. a song playing in the background that we didn't consciously hear / a billboard that we didn't consciously notice, etc). Psychologists have theorised that this is a survival instinct - things we have experienced in our environment and survived put us at ease, whereas new things put us on our guard.

This could explain a few of the things forum members experience, e.g. "burn in" / preference at demos for "warm sounding" equipment over objectively more "hi fi" equipment / the phenomenon of preferring the second component demoed to the first and then switching back and not being so sure / liking the "house sound" of a brand.

Also, more generally, I'm sure I've experienced this when getting into a new artist or genre of music.

The thing that really intrigues me about this is that it's entirely automatic - we have no choice. You will like your new speakers tomorrow more than you like them today. You will like the look of an amp in an advert you automatically flicked past in WHFS&V more than one that wasn't advertised. You will like the salesman more when you go back for your second demo. If you have classic FM on in the background for a week, you will start to like classical music more. Whathifi's reviewers will like a product that's been hyped more than one released without fanfare. You will think that the LS50s are amazing for the money. Look at the following list:

Bowers and Wilkins

Audiomaster

Kef

Technalab

Naim

Nagatano

You won't have been aware of it, but you will have smiled ever so slightly (the electrical impulses would have been measurable had you been hooked up to electrodes) upon reading the familar names. You'd have stopped smiling when you read the brand names I just made up.

So, what should you take to your next demo? A better understanding of how your preferences are formed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mere-exposure_effect
 

lonely boy

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Apr 19, 2008
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Psychology is a soft, some would say, pseudo science, meaning that there is little in the way of evidence that a lot of the theories it posits with are actually provable.

I'm not dismissing it out of hand, but I really have trouble buying some of these ideas, especially the whole subconscious thing.
 

pauln

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Feb 26, 2008
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lonely boy said:
Psychology is a soft, some would say, pseudo science, meaning that there is little in the way of evidence that a lot of the theories it posits with are actually provable.

I'm not dismissing it out of hand, but I really have trouble buying some of these ideas, especially the whole subconscious thing.
Many people would say there is an awful lot of pseudo science in the world of HiFi. Some of them might have a less polite term for it.

I have real trouble buying into some of these ideas about, for instance, cables; I do dismiss them out of hand.
 

chebby

Well-known member
Jun 2, 2008
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I have enjoyed the process of auditioning equipment less and less with every passing year since about 2007.

That was the year I began to realise that almost everything sounds awful in a shop (and gave me bad headaches).

In 2009 I didn't even bother listening to the Naim amp and CD that had - a year earlier - sounded so awful in a shop demo but took them home for the weekend instead. These 'awful' items sounded excellent at home and I bought them.

Two year's later I didn't bother to listen to my next system in the shop either. I purchased it purely on functions, connectivity, looks, size and price. The only influential review was published after I had already been using it a few weeks.

Now I would have to 'steel' myself before visiting a hi-fi shop and hope (or plan) to visit when no demos were going on, otherwise I think I would have to stand outside and order via text and gestures because the crashing headache would be that inevitable!

The only conspicuous exception to my 'hi-fi shop malaise' was the old B&O showroom in Chichester (no longer there) where my spirits were actually lifted by occasional visits.

I don't experience this in any other kind of shop (even ones like HMV where loud music is playing) and it is not brand specific.

Even reading about someone here about to embark on an extensive series of hi-fi demos, at different shops, makes me have to stop reading because I begin to imagine having to do the same thing.
 

Jame5

New member
Jun 10, 2010
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Some of what's said by psychologists will undoubtedly be pseudoscience - that's true of any science. The stuff above is extrapolated from some very credible, repeatable, experiments. Admittedly, it's my take on them and I'm not asking you to accept my interpretation - just putting it out there for fun. However, if you have a problem accepting that subconscious ideas affect our behaviour, preferences etc then I suggest you do some reading on the area, presuming you haven't already. If you have I'd be interested to know what's persuaded you otherwise.
 

garyw77

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Dec 24, 2010
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I love the mere-exposure effect, but in the sense of the new Exposure 3010S2 amp i have just upgraded to! :grin:

Brilliant amp that actually suffers through not being exposed as it should and marketed better such as brands previously mentioned... so quite apt for this thread i feel!

Definitely not part of the usual "hype" machine that rolls on with the usual suspects.... :roll:
 

Jame5

New member
Jun 10, 2010
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I sympathise with Chebby's view. For me, listening to my music in a sales environment is unpleasant although doesn't actually give me a headache.
 

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