Antonio Rangel: ‘Study shows wine tastes better when it costs more’

Does some wine taste better just because it costs more? Scientists held a wine tasting inside an MRI scanner to find out.

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:
Antonio Rangel
Associate Professor of Economics
California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, CA

Lindsay Patterson