High price makes it better

Antonio Rangel, associate professor of economics at the California Institute of Technology led a study using magnetic resonance imaging to observe the brains of 20 people as they were given the same Cabernet Sauvignon but with different prices. [story]

People given two identical red wines to drink said they got much more pleasure from the one they were told had cost more. The brain scans confirmed that their pleasure centers were activated far more by the higher-priced wine.

A wine retailer added, “Price is just one of the elements, but if you served the same wine in better glasses or a grander environment, that would also make people think the very same wine was better.”

Critics of the study say it might have been different if the particpants had been picking up the bill. Scott Rick, a researcher in neuroeconomics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said:

“There are people who derive pleasure from spending, and those for whom it is painful.

“In a study of 13,000 people it emerged that 15% were spendthrifts to whom spending gave pleasure and 25% were tight-wads to whom it gave pain, and the remaining 60% fell in between the two.”