Expensive Wine and the Placebo Effect

on Thursday, April 21, 2011

Volunteers tasted and rated five wines, each individually priced, although in fact there were only three different wines, and two were tasted twice: once labeled at $90 a bottle, and once at $10 a bottle. The results were very clear: the wine tasted better simply because people were told it was expensive.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in March subjected 82 healthy subjects to painful electric shocks, offering them pain relief in the form of a pill which was described as being similar to codeine, but with a faster onset, in a lengthy and authoritative leaflet. In fact it was just a placebo, a pill with no medicine, a sugar pill, like a homeopathy pill. The pain relief was significantly stronger when subjects were told the tablet cost $2.50 than when they were told it cost 10c.