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Including Doug's "Here's what I think!" and "What were they thinking!"

Saturday, November 5, 2011



per·cep·tion noun
the act or faculty of apprehending by means of the senses or of the mind.

We all have opinions. And yeah, I know the rest of that….

But the part of opinions that I want to discuss lies in how our opinions are formed - what are they based on, and what goes into the opinion that we oftentimes stand behind so vehemently? You know, the whole my better is better than your better thing.

The three attributes formulate our opinions; experience, perception, and bias/justification.

Experience is the easy part of the equation. No matter how you look at it experience is pretty cut and dried – how much do you have, how many did you do, how often did you do it, and how long have you done it. Let’s use one of my favorite subjects as an example, tires. You say that the Denmore All Terrain bias-radials are the best tire there is. And that statement may very well be true if put in this context – it is the best tire you’ve ever used. Of course it’s also one of only three tires you’ve used, and all of them were used on a single ATV. So basically you’ve based your opinion of what is the best tire on your experience with only three tires. That’s kind of like basing your opinion on what is the best food after having only three meals!

Perception is a much harder thing to describe simply because it’s not based on any solid, quantifiable evidence like experience. Perception is based only on, ah, well, perception. Hmmmm. It’s kinda of like asking someone one what they think but ask them to leave out what they know.

Perception is merely what you think is so based on nothing other than your feelings. ‘I think that my Mangusta EG 150 is the best quad made!’ Any facts to support this claim? No. Any comparisons with other machines? Nope. Any studies, tests, evaluations, or anything subjective on which to base this claim? Nada, nothing, no way, sorry!

And yet perception is oftentimes the first thing that forms our opinions – even more so than even limited experience. So our opinion is formed based on our perception and our experience, be they what they may be – limited, subjective, or erroneous.

But wait, there’s more! The other influence on our opinion is our bias. Bias enters the equation on two fronts; first as something we’re used to, something we’ve always had. And secondly as a justification for our ownership. Think about that one for a minute. If you didn’t think that what you purchased was the best there is, then you’d be left with admitting you didn’t get ‘the best’, and why would you do that? In reality there are a lot of reasons. Considering that there really is no single best anything that’s right for everyone is the primary reason. Cost is another as typically the best of something is the most expensive.

So our opinion of a product is made up of our experience with that product and like products, our bias toward that product based on our ownership, and our perception, that somehow magical feeling inside you that says, “I like it!”

Obviously we all have opinions - and we’re all entitled to our opinions, even if they’re based solely on our perceptions, bias, and limited experience. But it’s important that we realize that sometimes other opinions that are based on more extensive experience (and education), and less on personal perception or bias may be more subjective, and therefore more valid than those based simply on personal perception, justification, and a limited personal experience.

That is why some opinions are far more credible – and valuable than others. And that’s why the opinion of people that test products for a living oftentimes have credence over an owner’s opinion.

To quote Dave Barry, “We’re all entitled to our opinions, even if they’re wrong!” So if yours is based only on perception, bias, and limited experience, you run the risk that it just may be ;-)