Thinking it’s HD inside the Box (Wrongly)

This is probably a lot more easily pulled off if you’re not really accustomed to watching 1080i or 720p every day, but a recent study reinforces the notion that peoples’ expectations can have a profound effect on the outcome of something that hasn’t happened to them yet. And that apparently includes HD — where seeing is believing, even when what you’re seeing isn’t really there.

Half those participating in a Dutch study of 60 participants were shown a video clip amid a lot of other not-so-subtle visual messages (namely posters and extra-think “cable” lines) and were told to expect high-quality HD viewing. The other 30 participants were told they were about to view rather typical DVD content, but not HD, according to New Scientist.

According to question tallies recorded by the University of Twente in Enschede and Utrecht University, which conducted the study, a far higher percentage of those who were earlier briefed that they were going to see HD images — did report seeing high-quality pictures. In other words, they were unable to discern the differences between HD and SD images.

The study’s primary objective, according to its sponsors, was to test how what people are led to expect re: HD (they refer to it as “framing”) might influence what the viewers actual thought they were seeing (regardless of the reality).

But before some North American cabler or DBS provider might consider pulling a fast one and merely start “telling” subscribers they’re getting HD when they aren’t, be advised that the Dutch study may not work nearly as effectively here in North America: Unlike the PAL system used in Europe, the NTSC analog system used on this side of the pond is more noticeably inferior to ATSC HD (or even ATSC SD) than PAL analog vs. HD. PAL provides higher quality video than NTSC in the analog realm.