29 February 2008

if it costs more, is it any better?

There is a well known saying that "you get what you pay for". People expect something that costs more to be better than a cheaper version.

A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science showed that in the case of wine, this is not necessarily the case. It's just that people think the wine is better because it cost more.
Published online on January 14, 2008, 10.1073/pnas.0706929105
PNAS | January 22, 2008 | vol. 105 | no. 3 | 1050-1054

Marketing actions can modulate neural representations of experienced pleasantness

Hilke Plassmann*, John O'Doherty*, Baba Shiv{dagger}, and Antonio Rangel*,{ddagger}

*Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology, MC 228-77, Pasadena, CA 91125; and {dagger}Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, 518 Memorial Way, Littlefield L383, Stanford, CA94305

Edited by Leslie G. Ungerleider, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, and approved December 3, 2007 (received for review July 24, 2007)

Despite the importance and pervasiveness of marketing, almost nothing is known about the neural mechanisms through which it affects decisions made by individuals. We propose that marketing actions, such as changes in the price of a product, can affect neural representations of experienced pleasantness. We tested this hypothesis by scanning human subjects using functional MRI while they tasted wines that, contrary to reality, they believed to be different and sold at different prices. Our results show that increasing the price of a wine increases subjective reports of flavor pleasantness as well as blood-oxygen-level-dependent activity in medial orbitofrontal cortex, an area that is widely thought to encode for experienced pleasantness during experiential tasks. The paper provides evidence for the ability of marketing actions to modulate neural correlates of experienced pleasantness and for the mechanisms through which the effect operates.

Author contributions: H.P., J.O., B.S., and A.R. designed research; H.P. performed research; H.P. analyzed data; and H.P., J.O., B.S., and A.R. wrote the paper.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/0706929105/DC1.

{ddagger}To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: rangel@hss.caltech.edu

© 2008 by The National Academy of Sciences of the USA
I think it shows that wine snobbery affects everyone.

See also the Caltech Press Release and reporting by The Boston Globe.

We had office drinks after work. In fact, I collected money from staff and did the shopping.

Emily came around tonight. We watched the Food Safari episode on Mauritian cuisine. I made Hainanese chicken for dinner.

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