Cost May Determine How Much We Like Food

Person picking up slice of pizzaPeople are more likely to judge food as higher quality when it has a higher price tag, according to a new study published in the Journal of Product and Brand Management.

A similar 2008 study found people liked the same wine more when it was given a higher price tag.

Higher Prices, Better Taste?

To test the extent to which people believe higher prices equal better products, researchers from Cornell University recruited 139 people to eat at an all-you-can-eat Italian buffet. One group paid $4 for their meal, while a second group paid $8.

After the meal, researchers asked participants to rate the meal’s taste, the satisfaction and enjoyment they received with each slice of pizza, and the overall quality of the experience. Those who paid $4 for the meal assessed their overall experience based on the last slice they ate and their peak taste rating. Individuals who paid $8 assessed their meal differently, rating the overall experience based on the first pizza slice they consumed.

Authors David R. Just, Ozge Sigirci, and Brian Wanskin say these results support a theory called peak end theory.

Peak End Theory and Food Pricing

According to peak end theory, people judge their experiences based on the most intense part and the last part of an experiment. Under this theory, a parent assessing the severity of a child’s tantrum would rely on the most severe and last part of the tantrum rather than the overall experience.

Peak end theory predicted the $4 group would assess the quality of the meal exactly as they did. The fact that the $8 group assessed their meal differently suggests context also plays a role in how people assess their food. When the price is higher, this may cause consumers to judge the meal based on the earlier part of their experience.

The researchers say their results may help restaurants offer a better dining experience. Moderate and high-priced restaurants might prioritize offering a good experience early, and lower-priced restaurants might consider saving the best for last.


  1. Just, D. R., Sigirci, O., & Wansink, B. (2015). Peak-end pizza: Prices delay evaluations of quality. Journal of Product & Brand Management, 24(7), 770-778. doi:10.1108/jpbm-01-2015-0802
  2. Wine study shows price influences perception. (2008, January 14). Retrieved from

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  • Leave a Comment
  • corey


    December 2nd, 2015 at 2:34 PM

    While I would LOVE to partake of only the high end stuff, my budget tells me that I better do otherwise so for now regardless of taste I am sticking with cooking at home and the dollar menus :/

  • LinMarcia


    December 4th, 2015 at 10:30 AM

    Quite unlike most other people, for me I like the idea of eating healthy and fresh for the least amount of money. So yeah, I guess I am a different bird because I don’t always think that in order for something to be the best that it automatically should cost the most.

  • Craig


    December 5th, 2015 at 10:04 AM

    surely we are not this shallow?

  • Morgan J

    Morgan J

    December 7th, 2015 at 10:26 AM

    I would just be happy with the restaurants that I visit to charge what I would deem a reasonable price for the food that they are serving and for the wait staff to be attentive and polite. That’s all I ask and yet this seems to be too much for multiple restaurants to handle.

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