There’s a book review in the New Yorker which talks about Franz Boas, the father of cultural anthropology. Among other things, it mentions this:
Boas was trained as a physicist. His student work was in psychophysics, the science that measures things like sensory thresholds, and his dissertation was an effort to determine the degree to which light must increase in intensity for people to perceive a change in the color of water. This might seem an utterly sterile topic for research, but Boas reached an unorthodox conclusion: it depends. Our perception of color is a function of circumstances. Different observers have different perceptions depending on their expectations and experiences, and those differences are not innate. They are, consciously or unconsciously, learned. It made no sense, Boas decided, to talk about a general law of sensory thresholds.
It made me think again about the “rules” for improving sound. The most important, everyone says, is good data (pristine lossless tracks), followed by speakers, followed by room correction, etc. But perhaps we don’t put enough emphasis on learning to hear – critical listening.