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Originally published August 2 2008

Higher-Priced Wine More Pleasurable, Even When it's Just Cheap Wine in an Expensive Bottle

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The human brain actually perceives the same wine as more pleasurable when it is labeled with a higher price, according to a study conducted by researchers from the California Institute of Technology and the Stanford Business School and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We always have known that price influences perceptions of quality," researcher Baba Shiv said. "What we were curious about, now that we know this, is whether this perception benefit is just psychological, or whether price can influence the true pleasure."

The researchers had 20 volunteers sample sips from five different wines, each of which was labeled with a different price for the bottle. The participants were also hooked up to a functional magnetic resonance imaging scan, which monitored their brain activity as they drank the wine.

What the participants did not know was that the wines labeled $5 and $45 came from the same bottle (which actually cost $5), as did the wines labeled $10 and $90 (actually $90). The fifth wine was correctly labeled as coming from a $35 bottle.

Participants were asked to rank the wines based on how enjoyable they were, and consistently reported enjoying the $5 bottle the least and the $90 the most. The brain scans backed this up, showing more activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex,- which regulates pleasure - the more expensively labeled the wine was.

According to the researchers, the current study is only the latest to show that labeling actually affects how the body reacts to beverages.

"Contrary to the basic assumptions of economics, several studies have provided behavioral evidence that marketing actions can successfully affect experienced pleasantness by manipulating nonintrinsic attributes of goods," they wrote.

"For example, knowledge of a beer's ingredients and brand can affect reported taste quality, and the reported enjoyment of a film is influenced by expectations about its quality. Even more intriguingly, changing the price at which an energy drink is purchased can influence the ability to solve puzzles."

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