> My undergraduate degree was in (Experimental) Psychology, so I have
> some conceptual understanding of and respect for the problems of test
CHICAGO (AFP) - In a demonstration of the power of marketing,
researchers in California showed you can increase a person's enjoyment
of wine by just sticking a higher price on it, according to a study
Antonio Rangel, associate professor of economics at the California
Institute of Technology, led a team to test how marketing shapes
consumers' perceptions and whether it also enhances their enjoyment of a
They asked 21 volunteers to sample five different bottles of Cabernet
Sauvignon and rate their taste preferences. The taste test was run 15
times, with the wines presented in random order.
The taste test was blind except for information on the price of the
wine. Without telling the volunteers, the researchers presented two of
the wines twice, once with the true price tag, and again with a fake
one. They also passed off a 90 dollar bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon as a
10 dollar bottle, and presented a five dollar bottle as one worth 45
dollars. Aside from collecting the test subjects' impressions of the
wines, the researchers scanned their brains to monitor the neural
activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex -- an area of the brain
believed to encode pleasure related to taste, odors and music.
The study found that inflating the price of a bottle of wine enhanced a
person's experience of drinking it, as shown by the neural activity.
The volunteers consistently gave higher ratings to the more "expensive"
Brain scans also showed greater neural activity in the pleasure center
when they were sampling those "pricey" wines, indicating that the
increased pleasure they reported was a real effect in the brain.
"It's a common belief among scientists and economists that the quality
of the experience depends on the properties of the product and the state
of the consumer; for example, if a consumer is thirsty or not," said
"But what this study shows is that the brain's rewards center takes into
account subjective beliefs about the quality of the experience.
"If you believe that the experience is better, even though it's the same
wine, the rewards center of the brain encodes it as feeling better."
In other words, "people's beliefs about the quality of a wine affect how
well it tastes for the brain," he concluded.
The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of
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