Over the past week or so, I’ve discovered the joys of the Freakonomics podcast. I read and enjoyed the book Freakonomics shortly after it was released, but it took me years to discover the Freakonomics podcast.
One of the beauties of this podcast is that not only do I enjoy it but my kids are (more often than not) fascinated by the episodes. And, believe it or not, one of the episodes that our ten year old liked best was the one where they talked about whether or not expensive wines taste better.
During this particular episode, they highlighted a couple of fascinating studies. In one, the researchers found that individuals who don’t know how much a particular wine costs don’t actually enjoy more expensive wines more. In another, they found that people will rate a wine they believe to be more expensive as better than another wine — even if the two wines are, in fact, the same.
And even more amazing is that there is scientific evidence that price perceptions have a measurable biological effect on people. This wasn’t covered in the podcast, but… Not only does the (apparent) price of wine increase subjective reports of “flavor pleasantness, ” it also increases activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex.
Not sure what that is? Neither was I. But apparently it’s the part of the brain that’s thought to be responsible for “experienced pleasantness during experiential tasks.” That’s right, your brain actually responds to perceived price differences.
In other words, your mind may well be literally playing tricks on you. And it could be helping to drain your wallet. Then again, if you really do enjoy it more, maybe the added cost (even if it’s artificial) is worth it. What do you think?