09-19-2015, 04:40 AM
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  • RobinK
  • I like things that work.
  • Munich, Germany
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The good folks over at Straight Razor Magazine just published something I found really interesting. They took an infographic from the UK edition of the Business Insider (20 cognitive biases that screw up your decisions), and used examples from the wet shaving world to illustrate the biases described therein. 

Quote:Choosing the right equipment for shaving can be a daunting challenge. Even more so when choices are seemingly endless, and if there is a new super tool or method being discovered each year (hint: there isn't). We recently came across an infographic with common biases that negatively affect our decision-making [source], and found it quite useful. We have taken the liberty of providing examples for these 20 cognitive biases - from the world of straight razor shaving in the hope that they will help you make more informed buying decisions, and not waste money. Enjoy!


  1. Anchoring bias: Be careful when you research shaving equipment. The internet, including this forum, is full of more or less well hidden sales pitches. Make sure your first piece of information is the "Beginner's guide to straight razor shaving". 
  2. Availability heuristic: Never trust immediate examples. Never. Always do your research first, preferably starting with the most objective source (the Straight Razor Place Wiki), and then more subjective, or biased, sources, like the forum, or other internet sources. 
  3. Bandwagon effect: Just because many people share an opinion does not mean it is correct. Example: Some razors were made for export purposes, and therefore very many still exist in the US. Equally many people therefore believe that they are especially good. That opinion is not shared by the very people who made these razors, and therefore most likely incorrect. 
  4. Blind-spot bias: Especially if you are completely new to wet shaving, make sure you realise how much other people's aesthetics or opinions are influencing your own. 
  5. Choice-supportive bias: Keep in mind that many people who write reviews suffer from this. The vast majority of reviews would sound less enthusiastic if people were willing to admit that they bought an inferior product. But they aren't. 
  6. Clustering illusion: somewhat related to Survivorship bias, in that both relate to objective versus perceived causation. Some external conditions or events are in no way influential on your shave. You could wave a dead chicken over the shave puck each morning and claim that this has a beneficial impact on your shaving process (and if you adhere to Santería, perhaps it does), but the logical and demonstrable causal chain is tough to defend. Considering the mechanism by which an external event or condition affects your shaving process helps avoid the problem of “shave superstitions”. 
  7. Confirmation bias: The problem of seeing what you expect to see. So, you have done your research and have come to the conclusion that you think you know what you want. However, as a beginner in a field where nuances are subtle, and choice is overwhelming, chances are your research results are a bit off. So, research again. And again. Then buy. 
  8. Conservatism bias: If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got. For many people, this result is fine. But just because something appears to be a surefire way of doing things, that does not mean that it is. Recent research, or experimentation, may have yielded better results and new, superior methods. As such, make sure you have thoroughly researched both old and new ideas. Metallurgy has improved markedly in the last hundred years. An 1805 razor may be historical, and may shave well, but should not be expected to be superior because of its age. Many students of ancient arts like to believe in “special lost knowledge”, but in reality, automobile leaf springs are typically better steel than 19th century straight razors. 
  9. Information bias: A particularly dangerous problem when forums are your primary source of information. There is, indeed, such a thing as too much information. Keep it simple. Ockham’s razor is a brilliant approach to opinions obtained from forums. The more intricate the methods and tools employed, the more likely it is that someone is making things far more complicated than necessary. Razors are pieces of steel, and they have been dragged across abrasive surfaces for centuries. It is not rocket science. 
  10. Ostrich effect: “LA LA LA I am not listening to you!” A very common problem among people who have a favorite product, a vested interest in a product, or who have a hard time when others do not agree with their evaluation of a product (or method, or idea). We, as humans, like being right. It is hard to set aside one’s own preferences or experiences when others provide information, feedback, or opinions that contradict our own. Strongly related toOverconfidence
  11. Outcome bias: Randomly picking a shave product (or combination, or shave method) may result in a superior shave. It is unlikely because not all methods are equally helpful for a given individual’s skill level, skin type, etc. Thus, when someone says “I picked the blue box and it worked out great! I will forever pick blue products because that’s the secret to a great shave”, you should remind them that the color of the box has no bearing on the quality of the product, or that randomly picking a product that works out well for you one time does not make “randomizing your process or product” a superior choice every time you do it. 
  12. Overconfidence: Especially as one gains experience and skill, one can succumb to hubris about others’ skills and abilities compared to one’s own. Again, a very human cognitive bias. Related to the Ostrich effect but rather than shutting out negative information entirely, the person devalues the information from others because of their lack of experience, or perceived inferiority. 
  13. Placebo effect: see also: Advertising. Sometimes the promise of a superior product can convince buyers/users that the product performs better. Sometimes (like Proraso’s menthol, which acts as an anaesthetic) the product deliberately misleads a user. But individual objectivity/suspicion about the true value of a product should provide some defense against the Placebo effect. “blind” studies are useful here too; if the user does not know which product s/he is using, it makes the placebo effect more obvious but also easier to undercut, if there is a true difference between perceived performance evaluations of each product. 
  14. Pro-innovation bias: Do you think six blades in a cartridge gives a better shave than five, four, three, or two? Razor cartridge manufacturers say that they are innovating by adding more blades, but can your face tell a difference? Sometimes innovation isn’t valued (the Tucker automobile, for example), but much of the time, people think new and different must necessarily be better. It does not follow that different is better merely because it is different. (Somewhat the reverse of Conservatism bias
  15. Recency bias: Even discounting the actual effect of recency bias, consider this--you can never try a new product with the same conditions as you tried a previous product; you have more experience, a different quality of shave the previous day or days, etc. The number of variables itself is staggering. But overall, you’re a better shaver today than you were the last time you tried a product. New products seem better because they are newer than the products you’ve already tried, full of promise and naïveté about the less-than-perfect aspects of the untried product. But they might be better because you are better, and you should be aware that your improvements might affect your perception of a product quality. 
  16. Salience: Focusing on the most easily recognizable features of a product can distract from its potential shortcomings. When you think about the best shave ever, you might ignore the fact that the specific razor brand or model allegedly provides a daily miracle of hair removal shares most if not all of its features with other, lesser known brands which cost significantly less. 
  17. Selective perception: This is one of the most pervasive cognitive biases when it comes to wet shaving products. You read that product X is fantastic, you buy product X - and you will perceive it to be better than it actually is. Perception can also be influenced by price, making you believe that a product performs better than it actually is because you, or a reviewer, spent a lot of money on it. 
  18. Stereotyping: Products are known to provide symbolic, social meaning about their owners. Social media, including fora, thrive on conformity with actual or perceived social rules, or standards. While buying a product in line with these rules or standards will make on a member of the in-crowd, this does not mean that the product is actually worth having. 
  19. Survivorship bias: Especially relevant to people who believe that shaving was once a paradise of options and uniformly stellar quality. The remaining manufacturers are still in operation because of competition and market contraction, though perhaps the market is growing modestly at the moment. New manufacturers must at least favourably compare to the level of quality existing in the industry. There are out of production soaps that sell for $100 on eBay because of hype. If these products were truly exceptional, they would continue to be manufactured even despite the onrushing tidal wave of Gillette products. One possible exception are the double-edge Gillette “Swede” disposable blades that were removed from the market because they competed with Gillette’s other product lines, but if Grandma’s backyard, black-iron kettle soap was really that good, she would have continued making and selling such a superior product. 
  20. Zero-risk bias: Zero risk means zero progress. Often times we over-value established or venerable products or methods; our interest and pursuit of straight shaving may make us even more susceptible to this particular bias, since straight shaving is so old. The wet shaving scene in general, and its straight razor branch in particular, have seen tremendous progress over the last decade. While this is no invitation to engage in dangerous (physically or commercially) experiments, having a zero-risk bias will likely deprive you of a lot of fun and adventure. Keep an open mind!

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 09-19-2015, 04:51 AM
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I'm glad this is just shaving to me, this is too deep of an analysis on something as trivial as shaving, at least in my world. Smile

Thanks for sharing the article.

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 09-19-2015, 04:52 AM
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Interesting read. Thanks for sharing. I don't know if I agree with #5. From what I have seen everyone is pretty honest in their reviews. If they thought it was inferior they told you, and for the most part, we're pretty spot on. No one ever seems to sugar coat it from what I've seen or make something sound better (except for 1 vendor a while back). Of course at the end the ever popular YMMV makes its appearance.

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 09-19-2015, 05:17 AM
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  • RobinK
  • I like things that work.
  • Munich, Germany
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Well, the original article isn't about shaving which, I feel, makes the adaptation even more interesting.

As far as honest reviews are concerned, The Shave Nook is doing remarkably well. Other fora, youtube, and blogs? Not so much. There is an incredible amount of obviously rigged reviews, and shilling, out there. I was recently treated to no less than 16 highly praised "artisan" soaps. I put them in neutral containers, and send them to chemists I know, and gave them to staff who wetshave. Blind tests are really great, and it's little wonder hardly anyone does them. They sample group thought these soaps were mediocre rubbish. The chemist told me that no way were there essential oils in there, but cheap fragrance oils instead. Still, you can read epic, and lyrical, reviews about some of them. Yes, even here. So I think #5 is extremely pertinent.

Have a great weekend,
Robin

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 09-19-2015, 05:21 AM
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I believe many "reviewers" write positive-leaning reviews to avoid negative feedback. Just look at amazon negative reviews. People (trolls) go out of there way to give them thumbs down. My negative reviews, and I am not afraid to write one, typically get trashed.

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 09-19-2015, 05:22 AM
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(09-19-2015, 05:17 AM)RobinK Wrote: Well, the original article isn't about shaving which, I feel, makes the adaptation even more interesting.

As far as honest reviews are concerned, The Shave Nook is doing remarkably well. Other fora, youtube, and blogs? Not so much. There is an incredible amount of obviously rigged reviews, and shilling, out there. I was recently treated to no less than 16 highly praised "artisan" soaps. I put them in neutral containers, and send them to chemists I know, and gave them to staff who wetshave. Blind tests are really great, and it's little wonder hardly anyone does them. They sample group thought these soaps were mediocre rubbish. The chemist told me that no way were there essential oils in there, but cheap fragrance oils instead. Still, you can read epic, and lyrical, reviews about some of them. Yes, even here. So I think #5 is extremely pertinent.

Have a great weekend,
Robin

I'll admit I never look at shaving reviews anywhere other than a few shaving forums. "Most"  of the people who do them are honest and upfront about the product. Never really look at YouTube for anything other than the occasional funny clip.  Smile

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 09-19-2015, 05:25 AM
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(09-19-2015, 05:22 AM)FreddieP318ti Wrote:
(09-19-2015, 05:17 AM)RobinK Wrote: Well, the original article isn't about shaving which, I feel, makes the adaptation even more interesting.

As far as honest reviews are concerned, The Shave Nook is doing remarkably well. Other fora, youtube, and blogs? Not so much. There is an incredible amount of obviously rigged reviews, and shilling, out there. I was recently treated to no less than 16 highly praised "artisan" soaps. I put them in neutral containers, and send them to chemists I know, and gave them to staff who wetshave. Blind tests are really great, and it's little wonder hardly anyone does them. They sample group thought these soaps were mediocre rubbish. The chemist told me that no way were there essential oils in there, but cheap fragrance oils instead. Still, you can read epic, and lyrical, reviews about some of them. Yes, even here. So I think #5 is extremely pertinent.

Have a great weekend,
Robin

I'll admit I never look at shaving reviews anywhere other than a few shaving forums. "Most"  of the people who do them are honest and upfront about the product. Never really look at YouTube for anything other than the occasional funny clip.  Smile
+1
Many of the Youtube so-called reviews are a complete waste of time. I have no idea how anyone could write a review of substance after one use of a product. 

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 09-19-2015, 05:38 AM
#8
  • RobinK
  • I like things that work.
  • Munich, Germany
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Just because someone is honest and upfront does not mean that his review is reasonably objective. Three simple examples:
  1. Filarmonica razors. Those are #14 blanks from Solingen, mostly made in Solingen, and some of the old craftsmen still smile when you ask them about the goldwash. But... you can take at least 10 of the biases listed above (bandwagon, ostrich, placebo, and in particular salience), and easily explain away the allegedly superior performance of these razors. In fact, there are significantly better made #14 blades in the market, only they are few and far between because they weren't mass produced.
  2. Red Dot Gillette. I accidentally bought one along with a few other DE razors a couple of years ago. Never did any proper research (which was a brilliant idea in hindsight, cf information bias). Just shaved with them. Ended up with two obscure, but highly efficient DEs which might well be the last of their respective kinds. The Red Dot? Well, I gave it to one of my staff. He gave it to another staff member, and so on. 
  3. Anything made by that quadrophenic shillmonster from Phoenix (or wherever). I have, by now, tried all four product lines. They are... ummm... are there any children around? Because, you know, my comments about them aren't suitable for children. At all. Less than mediocre, sickening scents - and, despite claims to the contrary, cheap fragrance oils. But read the reviews anywhere but here, and you'll see many, many of the biases above at work. Making more innocent people buy this stuff. 

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 09-19-2015, 06:04 AM
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(09-19-2015, 05:38 AM)RobinK Wrote: But read the reviews anywhere but here, and you'll see many, many of the biases above at work. Making more innocent people buy this stuff. 

Biased and over the top reviews are everywhere I'm afraid.

All evidence has been buried. All tapes have been erased.

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 09-19-2015, 06:10 AM
#10
  • Agravic
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  • Pennsylvania, USA
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Interesting stuff, Robin.
Thanks for sharing, as I believe many concepts described are relevant to our little world of wet shaving.

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 09-20-2015, 07:20 AM
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Robin, your number two example is a great lesson here. Of course, it is also important to understand that biases are not necessarily bad, just mental tools we developed to allow us to deal with the complex world around.

The Red Dot example is important because it highlights the scarcity bias, and it shows that there are really several factors in what makes a given item valuable: function/intrinsic value as a tool, rarity/novelty, personal attachment, etc. It helps you feel more comfortable about your purchase decisions if you acknowledge that bias up front and assign a value accordingly.

For me it routinely stops me from buying high end soaps and aftershaves, or chasing rare and collectible razors (though I still might break down and buy a Darwin if I win the lottery). But I still feel good occasionally when I have weighed these factors and overpay a bit to get something I really want.

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 09-20-2015, 10:02 AM
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I always take reviews with a grain of salt.

I know very well my recent praise for Shavemac brushes undoubtly have made some consider, whether I might be sponsored by the company.

Still I feel every word I have written about the company is still valid - and I don't take any thing away from my original opinion and thoughts.

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 09-20-2015, 10:20 AM
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Claus,
I am fairly certain that your opinions carry a lot of weight around here. (Maybe not the synthetic one  Wink )

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 09-20-2015, 10:55 AM
#14
  • RobinK
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  • Munich, Germany
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(09-20-2015, 10:02 AM)CHSeifert Wrote: I always take reviews with a grain of salt.

I know very well my recent praise for Shavemac brushes undoubtly have made some consider, whether I might be sponsored by the company.

Still I feel every word I have written about the company is still valid - and I don't take any thing away from my original opinion and thoughts.

The point of the article, though, is not about your motivation. It's about people being able to put your enthusiasm into perspective. And I think there are certain key factors in your presentation of Shavemac brushes that might make some people wary. And that is as it should be. If you asked me about my favourite soap, I would give you exactly one answer - and it might be completely wrong for you. Reviews are subjective, and personal. The key is to help people, especially beginners to see through the dust kicked up by reviewers with a hidden agenda, or a vested commercial interest. 

There was a time when there were few reviews. Back then, saying, "XYZ is a solid performer, certainly above average, and you might consider buying it" sufficed to indicate that the product would likely not disappoint. These days, you have to SHOULD REALLY LOUD to make your voice heard, because the interwebs are full of rigged reviews extolling the virtues of inferior products. It is a vicious circle. And it is almost impossible for beginners to identify unreliable information. Making informed buying decisions has simply become too hard.

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 09-20-2015, 11:00 AM
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  • Agravic
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There certainly seems to be more hype and hoopla these days, extolled by self-proclaimed experts and gurus.

Savvy consumers should make their own choices in a conscious and informed manner.

Some don't care one way or another I guess, and that's fine too.

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 09-20-2015, 11:05 AM
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IntestinG article. I many of the propositions apply 5o most areas of living in the time with which we do.

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 09-22-2015, 10:29 AM
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I have seen firsthand just how powerful the bandwagon can be.  Ridden it a few times myself.

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 09-23-2015, 05:36 PM
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Thank you to the OP for this post. This is a good reminder to use one's critical thinking skills.

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 09-23-2015, 05:54 PM
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(09-20-2015, 11:00 AM)Agravic Wrote: There certainly seems to be more hype and hoopla these days, extolled by self-proclaimed experts and gurus.

Savvy consumers should make their own choices in a conscious and informed manner.

Some don't care one way or another I guess, and that's fine too.

Well said Thumbsup

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 09-24-2015, 10:30 AM
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(09-20-2015, 11:00 AM)Agravic Wrote: There certainly seems to be more hype and hoopla these days, extolled by self-proclaimed experts and gurus.

Savvy consumers should make their own choices in a conscious and informed manner.

Some don't care one way or another I guess, and that's fine too.

Excellent point about "experts" .  Ages ago I read Martha Stewart's Bio (before jail) and one of her techniques to impress people was that she proclaimed herself an expert on whatever she was doing.  Her rationale was that the maker knows more than the buyer hence, a legitimate use of a persons "expertise".  She went on the say that if you want to make a name for yourself, tell everyone you are the expert.  Now, one's conscious is the determining factor.

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