Expensive wine tastes better

Why expensive wine tastes better

The brain's reward system plays a trick on us, my researchers say: higher prices increase the taste experience.

Is expensive? Must be good. Scientists at Insead Business School and the University of Bonn have found out why the same wine tastes better to people when it has been awarded a higher price. Areas of the brain linked to rewards are responsible, the researchers report in the journal "Scientific Reports" on the so-called marketing placebo effect.

"The reward system is activated much more strongly at higher prices and in this way obviously enhances the taste experience", explained Bernd Weber from the University of Bonn. "The exciting question now is whether you can train the reward system so that it becomes less susceptible to such placebo marketing effects."

The researchers had 15 women and 15 men each lying in the MRI scanner for a wine tasting. First the price of the wine was displayed, then there was about a milliliter of it to drink through a hose. Using a button, the participants indicated how good they liked the wine on a nine-part scale.

Always the same wine served

The wine remained the same every time, the supposed price fluctuated between three, six and 18 euros. "As expected, the test persons stated that the wine with the higher price tastes better than an apparently cheaper one," explained Insead researcher Hilke Plassmann.

The MRI scans showed that the frontal lobe and the ventral striatum in particular were more strongly activated at higher prices. While the frontal lobe appears to be particularly involved in price comparisons and thus in expectations, the ventral striatum is part of the reward and motivation system.

"Ultimately, the reward and motivation system plays a trick on us," explained Insead researcher Liane Schmidt. The higher prices lead to the illusion of a taste that is not justified by the wine itself. This marketing placebo effect, however, has its limits, according to Weber: "If, for example, a plörre were offered for 100 euros, it would not be foreseeable."

(APA / dpa)