Before I get too deep into this post, it would serve me well to first explain what the contrast effect is and what it does.
Simpy put, the contrast effect is the alteration of one's perception of a given thing by placing said given thing in juxtaposition (woohoo bonus points for using a big word for side by side) with another thing.
For example, computer literacy/technological saviness were quite different when I was an undergrad. Yes, it's true! Sure we had computers but their saturation was no where near the levels today.
It was a time (albiet the twilight hours) of the DOS prompt, Word Perfect, and a Non-GUI based version of SPSS (scary times for sure). In fact, this was the year before Netscape and other visual based web browsers were even available on campus (although we did have access to the Internet and text based pages).
Needless to say, about the most computers were used for was (a) writing term papers and (b) playing minesweeper.
So on with the story, some classmates and me had to deliver a presentation for our research methods class based on our experiment investigating whether or not people could differentiate Diet vs Regular Dr. Pepper in a blind taste test. Our preparation was rather simply. Get up and talk. We opted to go second.
The first group proceed to pull out a laptop and laser pointer and delivered what, at the time, was pretty much rocket science.
Merlin's Beard! How do you follow that?
Unless we found out the Dr. Pepper cures cancer or maybe the clap, we were pretty much guaranteed a 2nd place finish at best.
My feeble recourse was to open the presentation as follows...
Me: "Before we get start, I just wanted to say two words: Contrast Effect."
The teacher laughed and I knew that we at least had a shot at taking those damn techies down or at a minimum not failing, which was fine by me.
As a second, more contemporaneous example of the contrast effect, for as much of a turd I thought Fantastic Four was, it was pretty much Citzen Kane* as compared to the remake of the Dukes of Hazzard.
As much as I enjoyed the original TV show, truth be told they did not set the bar exceptionally high. So to screw up the movie is the equivalent of screwing up the task of boiling water.
A blonde Daisy Duke? A dark, brooding Roscoe? An uncle Jessy that smokes pot out of an apple? Hazzard County THIS IS NOT! Tom Wopat** is rolling over in his grave right now.
* I never saw Citizen Kane, but I once read it was good. BTW Rosebud was his sleigh. He musta been a weirdo or something, I mean the dude is about to punch out and he starts going on about his sled? I hope he was drugged with Hippo Tranqs or something.
** Technically speaking Tom Wopat is not dead, but if he were, you bet your ass he'd be rolling like it was his job.