Omega, thanks for the very well written and detailed explanation of placebo and the placebo effect.
At least from my understanding your above statements are more or less the exact opposite as most of us think about it. If we take this back into the head-fi world then we got, lets say a normal/good intereconnect and the holy-grail-audiophile interconnect. The normal/good interconnect gives you everything there is, no quality loss, no degraded signal, the full quality and of course sound. Then there is that holy-grail interconnect and nobody can technically proof there is any improvement in SQ, but they can insure you that this interconnect is "the best I have ever heard". Is it placebo? Could be, I say could be, because after your writing about the placebo effect I feel that word is more or less wrong.
But if the word is right or wrong, one thing is for certain, those placebo pills in our head-fi world are surely not in the same price range as our placebo sugar pills
As I see it, the problem with placebo effect and hi-fi is that the expectation is inverted. People believe that more expensive gear will sound better. I dunno. Can't really afford the expensive gear myself, and most hi-fi shops are not good places to enjoy music.
I also like to cook and eat tasty food, and I've found that there are few restaurants in the city that can serve a $200 meal any better than what my wife and I cook with $20 in Costco ingredients. Objectively, it is hard to beat the DIY route. But there is something to be said for going out and having the experience too. Certainly, there aren't hordes of people lining up at our door and bragging about the feast last night
It seems to me that part of enjoying hi-fi is having, talking about, and sharing high end equipment and musical experiences with others, just like going out to eat. It has been shown that the same wine tastes better (subjectively) when the consumers believe it costs $90, versus $10. The consumers don't just say it tastes better, but certain areas of their brain actually experience higher stimulation (fMRI imaging) in response to the higher price suggestion. Placebo, I guess, or maybe they'll find another catch word for it. I don't see why the same shouldn't apply to head-fi...which is the point you're making, I think? I think ignorance is bliss, and I have a healthy ego. Who says my DIY efforts shouldn't be worth $10,000?
Link to PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) article, open access full text:
Marketing actions can modulate neural representations of experienced pleasantness â€” PNAS
(Figure 3 and the data therein are dubious, but the rest of the article is pretty solid)