Wine tastes better if we think it’s expensive, according to a new study.
Consumers were found to rate cheap wine more highly if they thought it had a higher price tag.Experts found that preconceived beliefs created a placebo effect so strong that it changed the chemistry of the brain.By packaging cheap plonk as a fine vintage, the drinker was able to enjoy the cheaper wine in exactly the same physical way as if it was far more expensive.
Bernd Webber, of the University of Bonn in Germany, co-author of the report, said: “Studies have shown that people enjoy identical products such as wine or chocolate more if they have a higher price tag.
“However, almost no research has examined the neural and psychological processes required for such marketing placebo effects to occur.”
Participants in the study, which is published in the Journal of Marketing, were told they would consume five wines priced at £55, £28, £22, £6 and £3 respectively, whilst their brains were scanned to measure their response to the marketing techniques.
In reality, the volunteers consumed only three different wines with two different price tags.
Another experiment used labels to generate positive or negative expectations of the pleasantness of a milkshake.
Some consumed identical milk shakes but thought they would be either organic or regular; others consumed identical milk shakes but thought they would be either light or regular.
Participants in both demonstrated significant prejudices, both in how they rated the taste as well as in their measurable brain activity.
The brain scan readings related in part to specific areas of the brain that differ from person to person. Such differences are also associated with known differences in personality traits.
The study concluded: “Using a novel application of structural brain imaging in combination with behavioral experiments, we are among the first to shed light on individual difference variables that affect marketing placebo effects.
“Understanding the underlying mechanisms of this placebo effect provides marketers with powerful tools.
“Marketing actions can change the very biological processes underlying a purchasing decision, making the effect very powerful indeed.”