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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 18-Jul-08


Friday 18-July-08

The price of wine

Do you think expensive wine tastes better? Apparently most people do. A study at the California Institute of Technology showed that people liked expensive wine more, even when it was the same wine. Caltech used brain scans to show that pleasure centres in the brain light up more when drinkers are told that the wine is more expensive.

Researcher Antonio Rangel and colleagues asked 20 people to sample wine while undergoing functional MRIs of their brain activity. Their subjects were told they were tasting five different Cabernet Sauvignons sold at different prices. In reality, a $90 wine was provided marked with its real price and again marked $10, while another was presented at its real price of $5 and also marked $45. The subjects' brains showed more pleasure at the higher price wine in all cases.

To confuse things further, when subjects did not know any prices, they rated the $5 wine as better than the more expensive wines.

The effect has also been found elsewhere, such as food served in salubrious surroundings tasting better, albeit without the brain scans that objectively prove that the brain is playing along with the belief.

'Neuroeconomics' studies brain-money connections, and has identified three broad categories:  a CMU study of 13,000 found that 15% were spendthrifts who enjoyed spending, 25% were tight-wads to whom it gave pain, and the remaining 60% fell in between the two.

The wider implication is that belief works at strong biological level -- if you can get a person to believe something different, their brain will provide full support!

Your comments

This is both disquieting and reassuring. Why the dichotomy?

Well, firstly, I enjoy wine. It's disquieting that my enjoyment might be price-based - especially as I'm currently confined for financial reasons to stick to the lower price range (up to about $8 or $9 per bottle).

Secondly, it implies that I should increase my own prices as that could lead to more satisfied clients (also a more satisfied wife and a happier bank manager...). In fact, now I reflect on this, I do find that the clients who pay least ('cos I'm a nice guy and only charge what I think they can afford) give me the most grief in terms of expectations.

-- Laury B

Dave replies:
Useful point, Laury! So maybe this blog will help you become a little richer, which would be a very Good Thing.

I remember a 'Business rescue' TV show some years ago where a cider company was turned around just by putting the cider in fancy bottles and doubling the price.

To me wine is wine no matter how much it cost it all taste good to me.

-- Diesel


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