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Wine Study Shows Price Influences Perception


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#1 C1ay

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Posted 17 January 2008 - 08:45 PM

A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but slap on a hefty price tag, and our opinion of it might go through the roof. At least that's the case with the taste of wine, say scientists from the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University.

"left"http://hypography.com/gallery/files/9/9/8/Wine_thumb.jpg[/img]Antonio Rangel, an associate professor of economics at Caltech, and his colleagues found that changes in the stated price of a sampled wine influenced not only how good volunteers thought it tasted, but the activity of a brain region that is involved in our experience of pleasure. In other words, "prices, by themselves, affect activity in an area of the brain that is thought to encode the experienced pleasantness of an experience," Rangel says.

Rangel and his colleagues had 20 volunteers taste five wine samples which, they were told, were identified by their different retail prices: $5, $10, $35, $45, and $90 per bottle. While the subjects tasted and evaluated the wines, their brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI.

The subjects consistently reported that they liked the taste of the $90 bottle better than the $5 one, and the $45 bottle better than the $35 one. Scans of their brains supported their subjective reports; a region of the brain called the medial orbitofrontal cortex, or mOFC, showed higher activity when the subjects drank the wines they said were more pleasurable.

There was a catch to the experiment, however. Although the subjects had been told that they would taste five different, variously priced wines, they actually had sampled only three. Wines 1 and 2 were used twice, but labeled with two different prices. For example, wine 2 was presented as the $90 wine (its actual retail price) and also as the $10 wine. When the subjects were told the wine cost $90 a bottle, they loved it; at $10 a bottle, not so much. In a follow-up experiment, the subjects again tasted all five wine samples, but without any price information; this time, they rated the cheapest wine as their most preferred.

Previous marketing studies have shown that it is possible to change people's reports of how good an experience is by changing their beliefs about the experience. For example, says Rangel, moviegoers will report liking a movie more when they hear beforehand how good it is. "Our study goes beyond that to show that the neural encoding of the quality of an experience is actually modulated by a variable such as price, which most people believe is correlated with experienced pleasantness," he says.

The experiment doesn't reveal whether the subjects truly experienced more pleasure from the wines that they thought were more expensive. "The area of their brain that is thought to encode for the pleasantness of the experience was more active when they drank wine they believed had higher prices. Strictly speaking, that is the only hard finding of the paper," he says. However, he adds, "it is hard to believe that this is not affecting their actual experience somehow, but we don't have hard evidence for that."

The results, while puzzling, actually make intuitive sense, Rangel says: "The brain encodes pleasure because it is useful for learning which activities to repeat and which ones to avoid, and good decision making requires good measures of the quality of an experience." But the brain is also a noisy environment, and "thus, as a way of improving its measurements, it makes sense to add up other sources of information about the experience. In particular, if you are very sure cognitively that an experience is good (perhaps because of previous experiences), it makes sense to incorporate that into your current measurements of pleasure." Most people believe, quite correctly, that price and the quality of a wine are correlated, so it is therefore natural for the brain to factor price into an evaluation of a wine's taste.

Could the findings be used by marketers to mess even more with consumers' heads? "Not directly," Rangel says. "But it certainly points out a channel through which prices affect the consumer experience and thus sales."

The paper, "Marketing actions can modulate neural representations of experienced pleasantness," was published January 14 in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: CalTech

#2 Racoon

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Posted 20 January 2008 - 10:34 AM

All the more reason to support the more local vineyard. :hyper:

Nice bit of wine growing here in Oregon and California. I can't tell much difference between a $15 local and a $40 import.
the local Pinot Noirs are great quality and low price. No reason to be snobbish with the $100 bottles.

I don't doubt that price affects brain activity concerning perception of the merchandise.


:):ebomb:

#3 freeztar

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Posted 24 January 2008 - 07:00 PM

It's so funny because people are conscious of this but not one person will try to change.


I would say that it is the people who are conscious about it who *have* changed. :lol:

I almost always determine my purchases based on value.
An example of an exception might be when I go to purchase, say, a bottle of wine, and I make the decision to buy a bottle in a certain price range before I get to the store (ie a $20 bottle opposed to the usual $10 bottle). Not being a wine connoisseur, I usually pick something I haven't tried. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad. :confused:
Either way, I don't let it influence my taste perception. Or at least I think I don't. ;)

#4 freeztar

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Posted 24 January 2008 - 07:57 PM

I don't think think so...people are conscious about so many things yet they act as if they didn't know.I think it's because they simply don't care :(. Let's take a simple example like smoking cigarettes. People know it's bad for their health, for various reasons, yet they continue to smoke! Now, why is that?


Probably for the same reason that certain obese people continue to gorge themselves on fatty foods, it feels good (or as the researchers in this study say, it's "pleasant").

Why even pick up a cigarette even if it's only to try it if you know it's going to damage your health???


Humans do irrational things all the time that have no relevance to price. In fact, the first cigarette I ever smoked (wish I couldn't say that) was given to me for "free".

In the article it shows how because the price of the wine is high people believe it taste better. That's conditioning lol!

That's really what the researchers who did the experiment were trying to show; that people are conditioned to think a certain way and it goes beyond wine, i mean, this was about wine but they could have done this with anything else. I think the article exposes how conditioned people are into thinking something is good or bad.[/B]


It's important to note that this experiment deals with very specific situations, namely pleasantness with wine according to price. Without seeing the original journal article, it's impossible to know the level of influence price has and it's also impossible to use the data to extrapolate to external, of the said experiments, stimulii. Rangel even says, "it is hard to believe that this is not affecting their actual experience somehow, but we don't have hard evidence for that."
How substantial is that belief, with you, without being able to see the data?

An even better question is: What other factors are involved?

#5 freeztar

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 03:06 PM

I have a different view from yours.


Ok, what is your view?