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Paying for Pleasure: We Like Expensive Wine More

Listen to today's edition of The Most

Moments after I made my contribution to The Most today, I realized I might have taken the wrong approach to the story. Here's an excerpt from today's LA Times:

When it comes to wine tasting, pleasure is in the price.

Using brain scanners to monitor the minds of wine drinkers, scientists found that people given two identical red wines got more pleasure from tasting the one they were told cost more.

The study, reported Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrated for the first time how marketing tactics — such as raising the price of a product — can cause the brain to play tricks on itself.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this story is that more expensive wines don't just elicit better reviews on a conscious level. It's not simply that we assume something more expensive must be better. As the article states, "Brain scans showed that activity in the part of the brain that detects pleasure also moved in lock step with price."

When I did The Most today, I took the same approach as the writer of this piece, pointing to the study as evidence that we trick ourselves into liking higher-priced wine. But now I wonder, Are we really tricking ourselves? If our brains tell us we like something more, doesn't that mean we like it more? What is pleasure besides the experience of our brains telling us we're experiencing it? In other words, maybe this isn't a trick at all. Maybe spending more money for the same product is actually money well spent, as long as you don't know it's the same product.

Am I making any sense? Do you like this blog post? What if I charge you 50 bucks for it?

That's what I thought. Best. Blog post. Ever.



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Last September I took my mom up to Napa Valley and on some tours of expensive wineries with tastings. These were $30+ a bottle wines if not more. On the way back we stopped at a Sutter Home tasting spot where she ended up buying three bottles of $4 wine.

Apparently nothing tastes quite like value.

Sent by alice | 1:50 PM | 1-15-2008

When shopping @ consignment stores, I am thrilled buying a well made item of clothing for a fraction of its original cost! I actually enjoy wearing the recycled item more than if I had spent $$$ - not worrying about the red wine that might stain it. But then, I do have a gold bracelet that makes me happy. It's complex.

Sent by Sally Ferguson | 5:26 PM | 1-17-2008