Listening Tests and how length of time spent listening alters perception ex.

3dbinCanada

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I grew up on a farm nestled near the top of Steve's Mountain in NB. The house was so old it still had a water cistern in the basement on top of a dirt floor. Electricity was clearly an after thought when it was installed. Insulation if any was rock wool blown in behind slats covered with horse hair and plaster. To say the house was cold in the winter time was an understatement. Without slippers, my feet would get so cold they hurt. The house was barely warm enough to keep the water from freezing in the pipes when temperatures dipped into the -30s C without the wind. Sitting on top of the mountain meant there was always wind. Sorry for the preamble but I needed it to set the stage.

Well one day, the furnace konked out and my parents sent us over to the next door neighbours to keep warm and out of their way so they could fix the furnace and bring heat back into the house. After playing outside with the neighbour's kids, we headed inside to watch black and white TV. I was between 6 & 7 at the time and had no clue about audio. The first thing I noticed is how different everything sounded from our TV at home. Everything from the fully violent and uncensored Bugs Bunny Cartoons (Mel Blanc deserves a Pulitzer prize!!) to commercials. It struck me as odd that things sounded different because the source material was the same. However, after some time had passed, (I cant remember how much time), everything suddenly sounded the same as the TV at home. Being a kid, I never thought too much about it and just accepted my perception.

My point behind this story is that the human brain is very powerful and will shift or alter your perception of what you are hearing if given time. My immediate perceptions were indeed correct that the the neighbours TV sounded different (for a myriad of reasons which Im not going into) from my TV at home. But after long term listening, it sounded the same. I had no preconceived ideas about audio at the time. Audiophiles always poopoo controlled blind listening tests and one of the reasons they give is that the tests are too short to hear any differences. They require longer listening sessions to hear the differences. That longer time is when the brain steps in and begins to alter the perception of what they are hearing and report it as differences. For me, my brain made the two TVs sound the same.
 

Marc Lombardi

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I grew up on a farm nestled near the top of Steve's Mountain in NB. The house was so old it still had a water cistern in the basement on top of a dirt floor. Electricity was clearly an after thought when it was installed. Insulation if any was rock wool blown in behind slats covered with horse hair and plaster. To say the house was cold in the winter time was an understatement. Without slippers, my feet would get so cold they hurt. The house was barely warm enough to keep the water from freezing in the pipes when temperatures dipped into the -30s C without the wind. Sitting on top of the mountain meant there was always wind. Sorry for the preamble but I needed it to set the stage.

Well one day, the furnace konked out and my parents sent us over to the next door neighbours to keep warm and out of their way so they could fix the furnace and bring heat back into the house. After playing outside with the neighbour's kids, we headed inside to watch black and white TV. I was between 6 & 7 at the time and had no clue about audio. The first thing I noticed is how different everything sounded from our TV at home. Everything from the fully violent and uncensored Bugs Bunny Cartoons (Mel Blanc deserves a Pulitzer prize!!) to commercials. It struck me as odd that things sounded different because the source material was the same. However, after some time had passed, (I cant remember how much time), everything suddenly sounded the same as the TV at home. Being a kid, I never thought too much about it and just accepted my perception.

My point behind this story is that the human brain is very powerful and will shift or alter your perception of what you are hearing if given time. My immediate perceptions were indeed correct that the the neighbours TV sounded different (for a myriad of reasons which Im not going into) from my TV at home. But after long term listening, it sounded the same. I had no preconceived ideas about audio at the time. Audiophiles always poopoo controlled blind listening tests and one of the reasons they give is that the tests are too short to hear any differences. They require longer listening sessions to hear the differences. That longer time is when the brain steps in and begins to alter the perception of what they are hearing and report it as differences. For me, my brain made the two TVs sound the same.
Great story! Floyd Toole (and certainly others) have written about this adaptability of our brains connected to our ears. Now I have two questions: Is it possible that after a while the neighbor's TV didn't sound "the same" as your TV, but rather it no longer sounded different? And, How did your TV sound when you went back home? Did it sound the same as the neighbor's TV, or did IT sound different?
 

mechtheist

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This highlights how our perceptions are a construct of the brain where expectations are a more important input in the construction than sensory input. One interesting manifestation of this is something I'm sure almost everyone has experience--driving, often at night, and listening to the radio but the reception is so awful that when a song starts playing, you have no idea what it is, you can't pick out any words in the vocals, can't discern a melody, it sounds little better than garbled noise, and then you finally get enough clues to figure out what the song is. Suddenly, you can hear it clearly, you can hear the lyrics, etc. The reception hasn't improved, but your perception has, your brain now knows what it's supposed to be hearing so it does. Your perception radically changed while the input hasn't changed at all.
 

dhai

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Added to this, when you stop your car and continue listening - suddenly bass is back, previously hidden under vehicle noise.
 

3dbinCanada

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Great story! Floyd Toole (and certainly others) have written about this adaptability of our brains connected to our ears. Now I have two questions: Is it possible that after a while the neighbor's TV didn't sound "the same" as your TV, but rather it no longer sounded different? And, How did your TV sound when you went back home? Did it sound the same as the neighbor's TV, or did IT sound different?
Sounded the same is meant to mean sounded what I remembered my TV to sound like at home. When I listened to the TV at home after I got back, it sounded like I had remembered to sound like.
 

MadMonty

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I remain skeptical of people who can always tell the difference but only if they already know which is which.

As students in an Experimental Psychology class in the late 60's, we were given an assignment to test the effect of expectation and social influence on perception (aka "set"). Our subjects wold be freshmen students enrolled in Psych 101, who were all required to “volunteer” for such studies.

One of my classmate’s extracurricular interests were focused on the mind-altering effects of certain “medicinal herbs” grown by his friends. Each claimed to have a superior product, and he wondered whether there was really as much difference between them as they claimed. Melding the curricular with the extracurricular, this guy designed a blind study to see which was the best, wherein five subjects would share a joint of unknown provenance and be asked to evaluate it. But of the five, only four were naive; the fifth was a friend of his, a stooge. His job was either to extol the virtues of the doobie and act like he was high -- or not.

My classmate conducted the experiment in his apartment, where he had hung on the door a sign reading "Cannibis Evaluation Lab". Inside, the living room was suggestively furnished with psychedelic posters, black lights, a lava lamp, and lush lounging pillows on a cushy carpet. (Actually, it always looked that way.) When everyone was settled, he lit the sample and took notes as they passed it around. At first, no one said anything, but after a couple of rounds, the stooge said he was getting high. One more toke, and he declared “this is really good !” Then one of the naive agreed, followed by two more. One of them liked it so much that afterward he even tried to get the experimenter to sell him some.

The thing was, my classmate couldn't get permission to use real marijuana, and had substituted parsley instead.
 

mechtheist

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I remain skeptical of people who can always tell the difference but only if they already know which is which.

As students in an Experimental Psychology class in the late 60's, we were given an assignment to test the effect of expectation and social influence on perception (aka "set"). Our subjects wold be freshmen students enrolled in Psych 101, who were all required to “volunteer” for such studies.

One of my classmate’s extracurricular interests were focused on the mind-altering effects of certain “medicinal herbs” grown by his friends. Each claimed to have a superior product, and he wondered whether there was really as much difference between them as they claimed. Melding the curricular with the extracurricular, this guy designed a blind study to see which was the best, wherein five subjects would share a joint of unknown provenance and be asked to evaluate it. But of the five, only four were naive; the fifth was a friend of his, a stooge. His job was either to extol the virtues of the doobie and act like he was high -- or not.

My classmate conducted the experiment in his apartment, where he had hung on the door a sign reading "Cannibis Evaluation Lab". Inside, the living room was suggestively furnished with psychedelic posters, black lights, a lava lamp, and lush lounging pillows on a cushy carpet. (Actually, it always looked that way.) When everyone was settled, he lit the sample and took notes as they passed it around. At first, no one said anything, but after a couple of rounds, the stooge said he was getting high. One more toke, and he declared “this is really good !” Then one of the naive agreed, followed by two more. One of them liked it so much that afterward he even tried to get the experimenter to sell him some.

The thing was, my classmate couldn't get permission to use real marijuana, and had substituted parsley instead.
Parsley, I hate it when that happens. Even when young, I was too much of a skeptic and kinda pessimistic, pessimists tend to be significantly more realistic about things, which isn't always a good thing. I graduated high school in 1976, the pot around then where I lived was extremely variable quality wise. Often, we'd get a new 'lid' and everyone in our Cannabis Evaluation Lab, usually a car with an 8-track [oh man, the sweet sound of 8-track tapes, it doesn't get any better than that] but me would claim it was good or real good and I'd be very unhigh wondering what in the world they were talking about. Usually, the rest would realize it wasn't any good after a day or 3, I usually didn't say anything, it wasn't because I was arguing with them or claiming it wasn't any good. I'd say 'wishful thinking' should be added to "expectation and social influence", and in the audio world, that would include, e.g., the need to justify the massive $$ you just spent on a power cord.
 

MadMonty

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LOL, I totally agree about Wishful Thinking.

Might we include her twin sister, Magical Thinking, who cannot tell fact from fiction? And also their brother Cognitive Dissonance (actual term of art from Psychology for discomfort with new, conflicting ideas)? Having made his decision, he plugs his ears, lest he overhear something that would rock his world.

These three sibs - Great Expectation, Wishful Thinking, and Cognitive Dissonance - are the children of Unfounded Arrogance, who can hear no other view; and Absolute Intolerance, who will hear no other view. They are the grandchildren of Willful and Blissful Ignorance. Family credo: "Often in error, but never in doubt."

All of which is why it is pointless to suggest that those overpriced Oxygen-free cables, even if such a thing existed, don't, can't, and won't ever make their eight-track sound better.

Good dope, well, that's another matter.
 
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