Want to enjoy the benefits of a super-sharp high-definition screen without buying a new TV? Simply tell yourself that you are watching HD and put up a few posters to transform your experience.
That’s one implication of a Dutch study into how people’s expectations affect their television viewing experience.
Sixty people in turn were shown the same video clip on the same television. Half were told to expect clearer, sharper pictures thanks to HD technology: an impression backed up by posters, flyers and the presence of an extra-thick cable connected to the screen. The other half were told to expect a normal DVD image.
Questionnaires revealed that the people who had been led to expect HD reported seeing higher-quality images. “Participants were unable to discriminate properly between digital and high-definition signals,” says Lidwien van de Wijngaert at the University of Twente in Enschede, the Netherlands, who carried out the study with colleagues from Utrecht University.
The goal of the study was to test how “framing” – what people are led to expect about HD – influences their experience of it. “If we want to understand the diffusion of new innovations we have to understand how they are framed,” van de Wijngaert told New Scientist, “and so far the diffusion of HD has been relatively slow.”
That is despite the fact that there are clear technical differences between standard-definition and high-definition viewing. As well as the costs of upgrading, van de Wijngaert, thinks that the framing effect is affecting consumer behaviour.
I said to the sales person, “Are you sure this is in HD? It doesn’t look like high definition to me.” The sales person said to me, “That’s because you are standing too close. You have to move back for it to be sharp.” I wasn’t convinced … but all of the HD TVs in the story pretty much looked to be the same SO SO Definition to me, so I bought one.