Do you know why expensive wines taste better? Your brain may be playing with you!

They have found that a higher price tag on the bottle causes the reward centre in the brain to trick the taste processing regions.
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Written by: India TV Lifestyle Desk New Delhi August 15, 2017 16:13 IST

Do you have a special inclination towards expensive wines? Most of us might have thought that the expensive wine taste better than the ordinary ones. But the scientists have something different to say. They have found that a higher price tag on the bottle causes the reward centre in the brain to trick the taste processing regions. This means your brain has been fooling you into believing that expensive wines taste better. This phenomenon is known as marketing placebo effect, in which identical products are perceived differently because of the differences in their price. 

Just like placebo medications, it has an effect solely because of ascribed properties, ‘quality has its price!’. 

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"However, it has so far been unclear how the price information ultimately causes more expensive wine to also be perceived as having a better taste in the brain," said Bernd Weber, from the University of Bonn in Germany.

The researchers studied how different price tags are translated to corresponding taste experiences in the brain, even if the taste of wine didn’t differ. Thirty participants took part in the study, of which 15 were women and 15 were men, with their average age around 30 years. MRI Scanners were used to track down their brain activity while tasting wine. It recorded online while participants were tasting wine. Every time, the price tag was shown to them first. A millilitre of wine was given to them via tube in their mouths. They were asked to rate the taste on a scale of nine to show how good it tasted. 

Their mouths were then rinsed with a neutral liquid and the next identical wine sample was given for tasting.Researchers conducted the tests using an average to good quality red wine with a retail bottle prize of 12 euros.

In the MRI scanner, the price of this wine was shown randomly as 3, 6 and 18 euros.

"As expected, the subjects stated that the wine with the higher price tasted better than an apparently cheaper one," said Hilke Plassmann from the INSEAD Business School in France.

Identical wine leads to a better taste experience when a greater quality expectation is associated with the wine due to its price.The measurements of brain activity in the MRI scanner confirmed this. The research team discovered that above all parts of the medial pre-frontal cortex and also the ventral striatum were activated more when prices were higher.

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While the medial pre-frontal cortex particularly appears to be involved in integrating the price comparison and thus the expectation into the evaluation of the wine, the ventral striatum forms part of the brain's reward and motivation system.

"The reward and motivation system is activated more significantly with higher prices and apparently increases the taste experience in this way," said Weber.

"Ultimately, the reward and motivation system plays a trick on us," said INSEAD post-doctoral fellow Liane Schmidt.

When prices are higher, it leads us to believe that a taste is present that is not only driven by the wine itself, because the products were objectively identical in all of the tastings.

(With PTI Inputs) 

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