Does some wine taste better just because it costs more?
Scientists held a wine tasting inside an MRI scanner to find out. Those tested did have a stronger response in the part of the brain thought to judge pleasantness when told a wine came with a high price tag – no matter what the wine really cost.
Antonio Rangel at the California Institute of Technology is a neuroscientist and author of this 2008 study. He said the study was to find out which variables affect the experience of pleasantness in the brain. He said the study shows that whether you judge something as pleasant or unpleasant does not just depend on objective circumstances. The study shows that we go into an experience with beliefs or expectations – which affect the experience itself.
People expect that higher price equals higher quality, and so they have a more pleasant experience. The signals in their brains reflect that. Rangel said it would take an expert to be unaffected by the cost. The rest of us take whatever indicators of quality we can get.
The take home message? If you think the expensive wine is going to be good, it will be good. If you think the reasonably priced wine is going to be good, it’ll be pretty good, too.
Our thanks to:
Associate Professor of Economics
California Institute of Technology
Learning to love science. As a producer for EarthSky, Lindsay Patterson interviews some of the world's most fascinating scientists. Through EarthSky, her work content is syndicated on some of the world's top media websites, including USAToday.com and Reuters.com. Patterson is also charged with helping to stay in steady communication with the thousands of scientists who contribute to EarthSky's work of making the voice of science heard in a noisy world. She graduated from Colorado College with a degree in creative writing, and a keen interest in all forms of journalism and media.