Marques Brownlee AKA MKBHD recently posted a video entitled "The Blind Smartphone Camera Test 2018" in which he polled his followers on Twitter and Instagram to find out which photos looked "the best." It's a great video and you should definitely give it watch but spoiler alert, people liked the photos that were brighter and had more contrast. The phones you'd think would destroy the competition like Google Pixel 3, iPhone XS and Samsung Note 9 were defeated by the Huwai Mate 20 Pro.
The reasoning was quite simple - the majority of photos taken on smartphones are viewed on smartphones. We take the photo, upload to our social network of choice and from there compression is added to the photo. Photos that are brighter with more contrast are more appealing to the majority of us and we tend to think these photo look "better." What better means is another argument to have.
This is reminiscent of the loudness war with music in the 90's. Audio engineers, labels and artists were so obsessed with making things sound as loud as possible on CDs that music quality ended up deteriorating. The louder albums got, the more compressed they were. Ultimately this gave fans a lower quality but overall louder sound. Fans equated loudness with sounding better the same way as equating brighter as better.
At the end of the day, our eyes and ears don't lie. If we think something looks or sounds better, it does. It's tough to convince a person otherwise. Unfortunately, this leads to dangerous trends in industries where it's less about quality and more about perception. Loudness was a huge problem for the music industry and it seems we have just begun with photography.