Can the Price of Wine Change the Way You Think About It?

three wine glassesAnyone who’s ever marketed—or purchased—an overly hyped product knows that price can drive demand. Pricing a product too cheaply can change the way consumers feel about it. After all, the thinking goes, a product that can be cheaply sold must have something wrong with it. It turns out the bias in favor of more expensive products doesn’t just affect consumer behavior; it can also change the way your brain processes information. According to a study published in the Journal of Marketing Research, brain activity differs between consumers who think they’re about to consume cheap wine and those who plan to drink the more expensive stuff.

How High Wine Prices Affect Your Brain

Hilke Plassmann and Bernd Weber, the study’s lead authors, highlight previous research showing that people enjoy products more if they come with a higher price tag. Researchers have long argued that this bias in favor of more expensive goods exists. Plassmann and Weber theorized that the bias might change the way the brain responds to more expensive goods, serving to confirm that such goods really are “better.”

Researchers used MRI scans to examine participants’ brains after telling them they would consume five wines of prices ranging from $5 to $90. In reality, they gave participants three different wines of two prices. Participants who consumed the “expensive” wines rated those wines as better-tasting. The MRI scans also showed changes in brain activity based on the participants’ beliefs about the wines’ prices.

It wasn’t just price that affected how participants felt about the wines, though. Researchers also evaluated the participants’ personalities, assigning rankings for reward-seeking behaviors, physical self-awareness, and other personality traits. They found that participants who scored highly on reward-seeking tendencies and low on physical self-awareness were more susceptible to price-based prejudices about the wines.


Can cheap wine taste great? Brain imaging and marketing placebo effects. (2015, April 29). Retrieved from

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  • desiree


    May 6th, 2015 at 1:35 PM

    But generally I would say that this is true about most things. We are brainwashed into thinking that the more expensive something is then it must be better.

  • Billie


    May 7th, 2015 at 3:43 AM

    Of course it does! We have all been to parties and seen the wine selection and automatically taken a glass of that which we know is a little pricier. Most of us have tried to leave the days of cheap wine behind us!

  • Jennifer


    May 7th, 2015 at 4:07 PM

    I know what it says to me
    the people who rely on the cost of something to make up their minds whether it is any good or not
    are probably snobs that I don’t want to be with anyway
    Wine is too expensive as it is
    It feels kind of wasteful to be drinking so much money down the drain and then having nothing to show for it in the end except a headache the next morning

  • Kate


    May 8th, 2015 at 12:32 PM

    Oh yeah I definitely believe that if someone tells me that this is a $10 bottle of wine but this one is a $50 bottle of wine I am going to begin by thinking that the one that costs more is going to be better.
    Now I do happen to think that I have pretty good taste so once I try it I will make a decision from there and the taste will determine which one I think is better But at the beginning, yeah, there is going to be some of that price bias there.

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