Posts tagged “expectations”

What did you expect?

‘You Are Not So Smart’: Why We Can’t Tell Good Wine From Bad [] – In this excerpt from his book, David McRaney cites research suggesting that expectations are as critical as sensation in how we judge and gauge experience. If we expect that a wine will be high-quality, this will not only inform, but over-ride the actual experience of that wine. This has potential implications on how we talk to people about products and services in our research, relying more heavily on expectations as a lens to consider experience.

So is the fancy world of wine tasting all pretentious bunk? Not exactly. The wine tasters in the experiments were being influenced by the nasty beast of expectation. A wine expert’s objectivity and powers of taste under normal circumstance might be amazing, but Brochet’s manipulations of the environment misled his subjects enough to dampen their acumen. An expert’s own expectation can act like Kryptonite on their superpowers. Expectation, as it turns out, is just as important as raw sensation. The build up to an experience can completely change how you interpret the information reaching your brain from your otherwise objective senses. In psychology, true objectivity is pretty much considered to be impossible. Memories, emotions, conditioning, and all sorts of other mental flotsam taint every new experience you gain. In addition to all this, your expectations powerfully influence the final vote in your head over what you believe to be reality. So, when tasting a wine, or watching a movie, or going on a date, or listening to a new stereo through $300 audio cables — some of what you experience comes from within and some comes from without.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Skirting the Glut of iPhone Apps [] – The average iPhone or iPod Touch owner uses 5 to 10 apps regularly. This despite the surfeit of available apps: some 140,000 and counting. [The iPad] doesn’t mean that people will change their habits. Actually, it may just make them feel a tad more overwhelmed. The next generation of gadget users might prove different, but for now it is clear that people prefer fewer choices, and that they gravitate consistently toward the same small number of things that they like. For every zealous owner whose iPhone is loaded with little-known programs that predict asteroid fly-bys, there are many more who seldom venture outside the predictable. Most say they’re too busy, too lazy or just plain flummoxed by the choices. “I think I’m supposed to want more of them than I have,” said Julie Graham, a psychotherapist in San Francisco. “There’s this sense that I’m missing out on something I didn’t know I needed.”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Steven Levy on How Gadgets Lose Their Magic [Wired] – "Any sufficiently advanced technology," Arthur C. Clarke wrote in 1962, "is indistinguishable from magic."…This applies to all the similar fruits of Moore's law. In the past 40 or 50 years, such mind-stretching advancements have become the norm…We all, I think, have become inured to Moore's law. The astonishing advances that once would have brought us to our knees are now reduced to a thumbs-up on Gizmodo. They're removed from the realm of magic­ – they're just cool gear…As technological magic becomes routine, I wonder whether a visit to a preindustrial society might teach me more than it teaches them. The only thing more fascinating than our technology is the idea of getting along without it. Maybe the way to recapture the magic is to turn all that stuff off.
  • How Tony Gilroy surprises jaded moviegoers [The New Yorker] – Gilroy believes that the writer and the moviegoing public are engaged in a cognitive arms race. As the audience grows savvier, the screenwriter has to invent new reversals. Perhaps the most famous reversal in film was written by William Goldman in "Marathon Man,.” Laurence Olivier, a sadistic Nazi dentist, is drilling into Dustin Hoffman’s mouth, trying to force him to disclose the location of a stash of diamonds. “Is it safe?” he keeps asking. Suddenly, William Devane sweeps in to rescue Hoffman. In the subsequent car ride, Devane wants to know where the diamonds are. After a few minutes, Hoffman’s eyes grow wide: Devane and Olivier are in league! “Thirty years ago, when Bill Goldman wrote it, the reversal in ‘Marathon Man’ was fresh,” Gilroy says. “But it must have been used now 4000 times.” This is the problem that new movies must solve. “How do you write a reversal that uses the audience’s expectations in a new way? You have to write to their accumulated knowledge.”
  • Secret of Googlenomics: Data-Fueled Recipe Brews Profitability [Wired] – [Echoing some of what I wrote about in a recent piece for interactions "We Are Living In A Sci-Fi World"]
    It's a satisfying development for Varian, a guy whose career as an economist was inspired by a sci-fi novel he read in junior high. "In Isaac Asimov's first Foundation Trilogy, there was a character who basically constructed mathematical models of society, and I thought this was a really exciting idea. When I went to college, I looked around for that subject. It turned out to be economics."
  • What is the Status Quo Bias? [Wisegeek] – A cognitive bias that leads people to prefer that things remain the same, or change as little as possible. People will make the choice which is least likely to cause a change. This can also play a role in daily routines; many people eat the same thing for breakfast day after day, or walk to work in exactly the same pattern, without variation. The inability to be flexible can cause people to become stressed when a situation forces a choice.

    It explains why many people make very conservative financial choices, such as keeping their deposits at one bank even when they are offered a better rate of interest by a bank which is essentially identical in all other respects.

    While this provides self-protection by encouraging people to make safer choices, it can also become crippling, by preventing someone from making more adventurous choices. Like other cognitive biases, this bias can be so subtle that people aren't aware of it, making it hard to break out of set patterns.

  • Sports, sex, and the runner Caster Semenya [The New Yorker] – There is much more at stake in organizing sports by gender than just making things fair. If we were to admit that at some level we don’t know the difference between men and women, we might start to wonder about the way we’ve organized our entire world. Who gets to use what bathroom? Who is allowed to get married?…We depend on gender to make sense of sexuality, society, and ourselves. We do not wish to see it dissolve.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Survey Says Baby Boomers Think Playing With Your Blackberry During A Meeting Is Rude – The 'tude in the blog entry about the survey is as interesting as the 'tude the survey's creation and content point to. Social norms shift and that gets introduced and changes the way people interact gets put through the social norm filter: is it rude? Is it distracting? Should other people stop doing it? Or should we get over it? This just points to the transition we're going through rather than offering any clear sense of what's going on. Full disclosure: I'm a Gen-Xer and I bolted from a boring presentation a few weeks ago when the person behind me tapped on the shoulder and asked me to stop using my iPhone as she found it distracting [I was discreetly using Google Reader in my lap].
  • Gartner's Hype cycle – a graphic representation of the maturity, adoption and business application of specific technologies – Hype cycles characterize the over-enthusiasm or "hype" and subsequent disappointment that typically happens with the introduction of new technologies.They also show how and when technologies move beyond the hype, offer practical benefits and become widely accepted.

    Five phases of the hype cycle
    1. "Technology Trigger" —A breakthrough, product launch or other event that generates significant press and interest
    2. "Peak of Inflated Expectations" — Frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations; There may be some successful applications of a technology, but there are typically more failures
    3. "Trough of Disillusionment" — Fails to meet expectations and becomes unfashionable
    4. "Slope of Enlightenment" —some businesses experiment to understand the benefits and practical application
    5. "Plateau of Productivity" — benefits become widely demonstrated and accepted

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Report: Real-world police forensics don't resemble 'CSI' – Even before the popularity of shows like CSI, there was presumably a cultural belief in the "science" behind these techniques. But the report finds that:
    – Fingerprint science "does not guarantee that two analysts following it will obtain the same results."
    – Shoeprint and tire-print matching methods lack statistical backing, making it "impossible to assess."
    – Hair analyses show "no scientific support for the use of hair comparisons for individualization in the absence of (DNA)."
    – Bullet match reviews show "scientific knowledge base for tool mark and firearms analysis is fairly limited."
    – Bite-mark matches display "no scientific studies to support (their) assessment, and no large population studies have been conducted."
  • NJOY electronic cigarette – Looks like a real cigarette, complete with glowing tip on inhale, and exhaled vapor that resembles smoke. Gives an inhaled nicotine experience, while messaging to the rest of the world that you are really smoking a real lit cigarette. Paging Erving Goffman?

    Someone was using one a party last week; someone else got out their simulated Zippo lighter (an iPhone app) and lit it for them.


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