Price really does impact enjoyment

The Economist recently ran an interesting article on the impact of price on our perceptions of quality. It seems obvious that price would have an impact on the expectations of quality.

However, a recent paper has used brain scans to show that people really do enjoy wine more when they think it is expensive.


  • Volunteers were asked to rate 5 wines of differing prices (from $5 to $90 a bottle)
  • What the volunteers didn’t know is that there were actually only 3 different wines – 2 of which were served twice at different prices
  • While tasting the part of the brain responsible for registering pleasant experiences was scanned


  • The wines tasted twice at different prices were rated as better when served at a higher price
  • The brain scans showed that people really did enjoy a wine more when they thought it was more expensive

A follow up blindfolded experiment was done where volunteers weren’t given the prices. In that case they rated a wine tasted twice as the same both times. This shows that it is the price that substantially impacts enjoyment.

So the ideal is to have a situation where you are paying for a medium quality product but you believe it is worth a lot more. The key is making sure that you actually believe it is worth more.