My question is... (if the differences are as subtle as both I believe them to be and this data seems to indicate that they are...)

Might not tonal control of your negative, such that you are printing at a high contrast grade of paper (which increases mid-tone and micro contrast) actually deliver a higher perceived increase in sharpness than a change in negative developer?

~Forgive me if this should be a new thread but I don't feel comfortable starting it as I just do not have the technical knowledge to follow through with it properly.~