It’s an old trope that people think wine tastes better when they believe it is more expensive. But how deep into the brain does the placebo effect go? Researchers have found that preconceived beliefs about a wine’s price may actually change the drinker’s brain activity, according to a study published in the Journal of Marketing Research.
The researchers gave each study participant five portions of wine, telling them that they were drinking five different wines that ranged in price from $5 to $90. In reality, the subjects were only drinking three different wines, with two different prices. While they drank the wine, an MRI machine recorded their brain activity.
As you might guess, the researchers found that the subjects reacted very differently to wine they thought was more expensive: Not only did they report that the supposedly expensive wine tasted better, but their brains responded differently to the “expensive” wines. Interestingly, the researchers report that subjects with stronger reward-seeking personalities and subjects with lower self-esteem were more susceptible to the prejudice.