You've got to pay for good taste

A glass of wine poured for tasting

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: There's nothing like telling the truth to sell a product, right? Well, an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says just the opposite. Lying works well in marketing. WUNC's Rose Hoban explains.


Rose Hoban: CalTech's Antonio Rangel studies how people make spending decisions. And the neuro-economist wanted to test how price affects perceptions of quality. So he gave subjects samples of Cabernet Sauvignon, and scanned their brains while they tasted them.

Antonio Rangel So there were a range of prices between $5 and $90, and we tell them right now, you are receiving in your mouth a sip of the $5 Cabernet Sauvignon, of the $35 Cabernet Sauvignon.

But Ranhel's subjects didn't know that he lied about the price, saying some wine was expensive when it wasn't. The pleasure centers of subjects' brains became more active as they drank cheap wine they thought was expensive.

Rangel: So literally, for that area of the brain that encodes subjective pleasure, a more expensive wine tastes better.

Rangel says this shows that people's expectations affect how much pleasure they get from an experience. People tend to equate price with quality, even if the wine is really just Two-Buck Chuck.

In Durham, North Carolina, I'm Rose Hoban for Marketplace.

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