I feel vindicated.
Science has proven what I've been saying for twenty years. Boo-YAH.
In a brief, six-paragraph article that I think I shall treasure always, the Research Digest Blog of the British Psychological Society presents a précis of a 2008 experiment by Christopher K. Hsee, Yang Yang, Yangjie Gu, and Jie Chen called "Specification Seeking: How Product Specifications Influence Consumer Preference," from the Journal of Consumer Research.
You can (and should) read the six paragraphs yourself—and perhaps even the full study (it costs $10), but the upshot of the research is that people will choose better specifications even when it contradicts their own experience of quality. Specifications, they say, "exert a powerful, irrational effect on consumers' decision-making, even overriding the influence of a person's direct experience with a product."
Irrational. I love it.
When Hsee et alia asked test subjects to choose a camera based on the image quality of sample pictures, most chose a camera that made more vivid pictures. But when told that the other camera had more resolution (more megapixels), "many more participants chose the camera with higher resolution."
In other words, we let single-index specification numbers distract us from our actual visual tastes.
I knew it.
The final paragraph is worth quoting in full:
The researchers concluded with some advice for consumers: "First, they should seek experience, not just numbers," Hsee's team said. Secondly, the researchers advised people should avoid direct comparisons between products, remembering that your real-life experience of a product will most likely be in isolation rather than side by side with its rivals.
Not to say I told 'em so, but Yr. Nt. So Hmbl. Svt. the ol' empirical photographer has been saying as much fer years....
(Okay, carry on pixel peeping, and ignore my gloat and glee. I think this is maybe just a personal thing, and maybe not as relevant to others as it is to me.)
Mike (Thanks to Jay Smith)
Featured Comment by yischon: "Dr. Hsee has the article for download on his University of Chicago web page."