One Simple Trick To Improve Credibility

By Bill Andrews | April 18, 2018 2:37 pm

(Credit: PrinceOfLove/Shutterstock)

It’s intuitive: We hear a message, think about it, and decide whether or not we believe it. We have to do it whenever we get a new piece of information in our lives, from politics to the news to gossip, so you’d think we’d be good at it by now.

But studies constantly show that our squishy human brains don’t make it quite so easy. Presenting information in different ways — whether there’s a photo included, or changing the colors of the words — affects our interpretation of it, without our even knowing it. It turns out, the same is true for how we hear information.

Sound Research

According to a study this week in Science Communication, two researchers futzed around with the audio quality of two types of presentations to see how people’s understanding changed.

In the first experiment, they started with a couple of YouTube videos on engineering and physics. After digitally manipulating them to short clips of varying sound quality, they played them to 97 research subjects. The second experiment involved 99 participants, and featured genetics and physics segments from NPR’s “Science Friday,” again shortened and tampered with.

The results were clear: In all cases, the listeners thought the speakers in the clips with better sound production were more credible, and their topics more interesting. As the paper’s abstract succinctly sums up, “Despite identical content, people evaluated the research and researcher less favorably when the audio quality was low, suggesting that audio quality can influence impressions of science.”

All The Feels

While it’s surely good news to NPR, and podcasters and YouTubers with expensive sound equipment, it’s also an important finding for anyone how hears news, i.e. most of us. “When you make it difficult for people to process information, it becomes less credible,” says one of the co-authors in a news release.

In an age of fake news and increasingly savvy media manipulators, anything that affects our understanding of events is sure to be exploited. And as usual, the best defense against such mental sleight of hand is simply to know about it beforehand, and consider if your brain is making any assumptions you don’t want it to.

As the same researchers put it in a past video on similar findings, “Most of the times when [people] decide something is true, what they’re doing is making a judgment based on their feelings. So, if something feels familiar, or it feels easy to process, people often mistake their experience as a sign that something is true.”

The simple path may feel right, but when it comes to our brains, nothing is really as simple as it seems.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts
MORE ABOUT: psychology, Senses
  • OWilson

    As P.T Barnum put it, there’s a sucker (who can be manipulated) born every day.

    Some of us don’t run with the crowd!

  • jonathanpulliam

    With all of the audiophile and pop-culture interest in having good “cans”, ie hi-fi stereo headphones, and given the market interest in audiobooks, one would think there would be more interest in well-engineered binaural recordings, yet we don’t see it.

    When people believe they have found their soul-mate on line, but it is someone they have never met in person, never smelled, never listened to the rich subtleties of the human conversational voice, reflective of individual levels of hormones pheromones; all they do is react to text they are seeing and then conjure a ( likely rather fanciful ) mental image on their own . What if, upon actually meeting in person, one finds one does not like the way one’s soulmate smells?

    But my point is these audible cues as to message trustworthiness such as might subconsciously have eager receptors in the human brain, the more recognizable owing to high fidelity of the soundfield, as we used to call it when I worked at dbx.

  • jonathanpulliam

    Hey Bill Andrews I read your douchi-article and made a a comment which dic-heds at dbrief deleted as spam, even though my comment was not spam. You work for a prick-outfit, loser

    • Not_that_anyone_cares, but…

      👎 ᠎ 👎

  • jonathanpulliam

    By the rue’d nino that jump’d the shark
    Their flag to “settled science” unfurled
    Here the gaylord-phreaks at D-Brief stood
    The creepiest censors in the world

  • Herrnhut



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