Thursday, January 17, 2008
You Get What You Pay For: Price Affects Pleasure, Study Says
Researchers have discovered that one clever marketing tactic – raising the price of a product – causes the brain to play tricks on itself.
People who sampled the same, but higher-priced, of two product lines reported more pleasure from it.
What's more, a part of the brain associated with pleasurable sensation, the medial orbital prefrontal cortex, lit up like Christmas when participants had the more expensive of the two products.
They were tasting wine. Apparently, when it comes to wine tasting, the pleasure is in the price.
The study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, had people sip wine labeled from $5 to $90 and rank its pleasantness, among other qualities. Although the Cabernet-Sauvignons were identical, people reported enjoying the 90 dollar bottle the most – and the unconscious activity of their brains backed them up.
However, two weeks later when volunteers were asked to rate the wines in the absence of price information, they liked the lower priced wines the best.
Who knows whether the results of this study apply to anything else, but it stands to reason that if people think expensive wine tastes better, then a whole range of other products might enjoy a similar bump in enjoyment, albeit temporary.
Every so often I hear people at etsy.com ask whether the price of an item affects whether people will think it's of higher quality, and therefore be justified in paying the higher price. Should they price their art higher to signal its greater value to a consumer? Would people who see a scarf priced at $120 think it's a better scarf than a similar one priced $40?
This study suggests their intuition is right n the money. However, if a buyer purchases the higher priced item thinking it's "better" then what happens two weeks later when they've finally received it? Will they continue to feel it's a higher quality scarf?
I would venture a guess, that yes, they would.
Even though the wine study suggests the scarf buyer might think they were 'ripped off' upon realizing the higher priced scarf isn't any better, unlike the people in the wine study, the scarf buyer has placed his or her own money on the table, not someone else's. And that makes all the difference. So go ahead, buy the scarf you like even if it carries a large price tag – you'll like it even more. The one pictured here was woven by Mr. Field Notes, and is for sale, by the way.