Perception and You, A Kind of Love Story

Perception is an interesting thing when you are reviewing something.  When you taste a beer, a wine, go to a restaurant, or watch a movie, are you reviewing the thing you are experiencing or are you reviewing its representative?

I recently read the book The Beer Trials and one of its central theses is that perception effects your enjoyment of a beer (or wine or book or movie).  If you paid $10 for this 750 ml bottle of beer, it must be good.  It is certainly better than that $1.50 12 oz. bottle.  By conducting blind tastings of 250 beers the authors proved that sometimes our perceptions driven by the cost, availability, and the advertising are completely wrong.

This is the same in any other creative enterprise.  The perception of a thing affects how many people rate something and how much they enjoy it.  A new television show coming on HBO is often perceived differently than a new show premiering on network television.  A book self-published by an unknown writer or even just published by a small independent press will be perceived differently than the latest novel published by Random House.

It is actually quite interesting to think about and watch how advertising, price, and availability work to effect the perception of a product.  In some circles, the more you advertise, keep the price low, and make ubiquitous a product the more it is desired.  In other circles, products with those markers are avoided.  Beer is the perfect example.

There are you mass-produced pale lagers which are the kings all over the world.  They are advertised endlessly, they are sold at a low price, and they are everywhere.  To some people that signals good enough and that is all they buy.

On the other hand you have a certain section of the craft beer movement where products that are never advertised, expensive, and almost impossible to find are the beer most coveted.  That is partially why Pliny the Elder and anything from Westvletern often get voted the best beers in the world, they are intentionally in short supply making everyone want one so that they can say they drank it and look at how cool they are.

Our perceptual bias is fueled by how we define ourselves and how think we are defined in the minds and eyes of others.  Too many people carry around a book so others can see that they are reading it or drink this beer so others can see they are drinking it.  Fooling yourself about who you are and what you like is silly.  It will just make you unhappy.  Defining yourself through other’s eyes is a fool’s errand because the only things you can control are your actions.  You can never be sure how any of the things you do will be perceived by others much less control how they are perceived by others.  That is not to say you should not care what other’s think, but that you cannot let the desire to influence what other’s think about you to define your behavior.  Be a nice person and respect other’s opinions, but do not let those opinions take you down paths you do not want to go.

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