It really is trivially easy to influence one's subjective perceptions.
To give your anecdote something of a real world example, late last year I had a customer return a cable. He said he preferred a silver cable he was comparing it to. During the course of this, he said he really wished we'd made a silver cable. And that's when the devil on my shoulder whispered in my ear.
So I told him a story. A story about a friend of mine who's in the audio transformer business. About how some years ago he'd bought a bunch of high quality silver magnet wire so he could offer transformers with silver windings in response to customers of his who were saying they wanted silver wound transformers. And how, when they saw the prices, they decided they didn't want silver wound transformers so much after all. And how he's been sitting on a bunch of silver magnet wire ever since.
I told him we'd talked about this over the Thanksgiving holiday and that I had decided to buy some of his silver magnet wire and have it made into litz wire. I dragged this out for about two months, telling him that first it had to go to my wire guys to make litz wire out of it, then it had to go over to France to have the silk serve applied as no one in the US does silk serve anymore.
Finally I told him I'd received the litz wire back from France and that I'd have his silver cable made up and sent out to him the next day.
As expected, when he received the cable and gave it a try, he said it sounded better than the copper cable he'd returned. Of course he wasn't listening to a silver litz cable, he was listening to the same copper cable he'd previously returned. Well, not THE exact same cable he'd returned, but one made identically to that one.
Then I broke the news to him. From our previous discussions I knew he had a good sense of humor so I thought he'd likely take it well. And he did. So well in fact that he immediately turned around and pulled the same stunt on a friend of his.
So yeah, it is trivially easy to influence one's subjective perceptions. And it's quite reliable. I've done similar things many times over the past 30 years and it's never failed.
Edited by Steve Eddy - 10/23/12 at 8:16am