Saturday, March 08, 2008

Neuroscience: How much does the hole in your wallet improve the taste of wine?

In the Boston Globe, Jonah Lehrer reveals a truth - via neuroscience - that ANY parent who has tried to talk a teen out of zillion-dollar fashions will certainly applaud: How good we think a product is depends in large part on our expectations. Get this:
They provided people with cabernet sauvignons at various price points, with bottles ranging from $5 to $90. Although the tasters were told that all the wines were different, the scientists were in fact presenting the same wines at different prices.

The subjects consistently reported that the more expensive wines tasted better, even when they were actually identical to cheaper wines.

The experiment was even more unusual because it was conducted inside a scanner - the drinks were sipped via a network of plastic tubes - that allowed the scientists to see how the subjects' brains responded to each wine. When subjects were told they were getting a more expensive wine, they observed more activity in a part of the brain known to be involved in our experience of pleasure.

However, apparently, most subjects, when not provided with price information, preferred the cheap wines.

No surprise there, if you think about it. The makers of cheap wines can’t rely on snob appeal, they must market a product that tastes good.

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