Expensive wine does taste better.

Expensive wine does taste better.

When wine lovers drink wine they believe to be expensive, blood oxygen increases in the area of the brain concerned with feeling pleasure. This was shown in research by Plassman et al in 2008. The wine actually tastes better to them just because they think it is expensive and therefore believe it is good quality.

How often have you heard the old adage, “You get what you pay for”? It is ingrained into us, as we grow up, that more expensive products are better quality.

Of course, you know that that is not always the case. I’m sure you can think of many instances when you bought something expensive that broke, or something cheap which went on and on and on. However, if you are trying to choose between two similar products, you are likely to assume that the more expensive one will be better.

It is generally when we do not have the expert knowledge required to assess quality properly that we fall back on the price to inform us. However, it is not always as clear cut that more expensive is perceived as better. Your state of mind can change that. For example, if you have just spent time tackling your struggling finances, then cheaper is more likely to be seen as good value. If you have just spent time trying to fix a broken item and are now buying a replacement, you are more likely to think of cheaper as lower quality.

All other things being equal though, we equate price with quality, even though this is often not the case. Take medicine, for example. This is an area where people will pay more for quality. People will pay far more for big name brands, assuming them to be of superior quality. As I write this Tesco sells packs of 16 Nurofen 200mg tablets for £1.90. They obviously sell enough that Nurofen continues to make a profit on them. However, a pack of 16 tablets of Tesco’s own brand of ibuprofen costs only £0.35!

There is no doubt that Nurofen’s big brand name has an impact, but many people assume that because Nurofen costs so much more it must be that much better. However, both Nurofen’s and Tesco’s tablets each have 200mg of the active ingredient. There is no good reason to believe that the Nurofen brand works better.

Actually, I should revise that. There is one very good reason Nurofen may work better and faster than a supermarket’s own cheap brand: your belief that it will.

 

Find out more about how the mind plays tricks on you and how your memory works by reading my books, Bias Beware and Memory Matters.

Just the thought of money makes us unsociable

Just the thought of money makes us unsociable

Money makes us unsociable

Just the thought of money makes us more insular, more unsociable, and makes us want to be more independent.

Kathleen Vohs et al conducted various experiments to study the way people’s behaviour changes when they have money on their minds. One of my favourites had participants fill out a form in a small room. They “happened” to be filling out the form on a desk in front of a computer monitor which, in some cases, had a screensaver of a floating dollar bill. After the form was finished the experimenter said they had to go and fetch something, and whilst they did that would the participant please set up two chairs for a face to face meeting.

The distance between the chairs, as set out by the participant, was then measured. Those who had filled in the form with a neutral screensaver set them up an average of 80 cm apart. Those who had a dollar bill screensaver in their peripheral vision set them an average of 120 cm apart.

Just having money in the back of their minds (as primed by the dollar bill screensaver) made people set up the chairs 50% farther apart than otherwise. This was a result of them feeling more independent and insular.

 

Find out more about how the mind plays tricks on you and how your memory works by reading my books, Bias Beware and Memory Matters.

You should pay people less to lie

You should pay people less to lie

In 1959 Festinger and Carlsmith asked the participants in their experiment to complete an extremely boring couple of tasks for an hour. Each participant was then offered money to lie to the next one and say that they would find the task really interesting and enjoyable. They were offered either $1 or $20.
After they had told their lies the participants were interviewed to find out how interesting and enjoyable they had really found the tasks. Those who had only been paid $1 to lie to the other participant reported finding the tasks much more enjoyable than those who had been paid $20.
The cause of this strange discrepancy is something called cognitive dissonance – the uncomfortable feeling of inconsistency in our thoughts and behaviours. Our brain doesn’t like to think of us as inconsistent, so it will do what it can to avoid it.
We don’t like to think of ourselves as liars because we are brought up to believe that lying is bad. But the participants were asked to lie to another person and tell them that they would find a really boring task interesting. They didn’t like to think of themselves as liars, but they did lie, and this caused cognitive dissonance.
The participants who were paid $20 could justified their lies by telling themselves that they did it for the money. This reduced their cognitive dissonance. Those who were only paid $1 couldn’t really justify their lies the same way as $1 is such a paltry sum. Instead they reduced the dissonance by convincing themselves that the tasks weren’t so bad. If they believed the tasks were interesting then they weren’t lying and there was no cognitive dissonance.
This sort of change in our attitudes is happening all the time every day. Our minds are constantly making small adjustments to our beliefs and opinions to avoid the uncomfortable feelings of cognitive dissonance.

Mailing list:

Please sign up to hear about new articles and occasional fun facts about the way we think.

If my articles interest you, you would really enjoy my book, Bias Beware, available here.

Categories

%d bloggers like this: