Quote Box ArchiveGo to Past Quote Boxes

Sep 27, 2008

Strong Preferences

If I Could Tell the Difference, I Wouldn't Be So Sure

The post Conversation with a Palin Hater talks about a dinner conversation. A fellow dislikes everything about Sarah Palin, but avoids discussing any one thing that he doesn't like.

I was 1st year at the University of Chicago college in 1966. I happened on a gathering in one of the dormitory rooms. Two 2nd year students at the UC School of Business had a large bag of cigarettes of many brands, with about ten onlookers.

They asked for a smoker to volunteer for an experiment. He would name the brand that he liked best and the brand he hated, if he had a strong preference. They would find the brands in their bag and conduct a blind taste test. They offered $10 if the subject could tell his favorite brand from his hated brand.

A guy volunteered, saying that he loved X and absolutely hated Y. So, they blindfolded him and selected two cigarettes from each brand. The subject took a few puffs from each cigarette and the testers kept track, asking that he tell them which of the two brands he was smoking.

I would not have believed it, but I witnessed it. The subject couldn't tell the difference. He didn't want to accept that he couldn't tell the difference. I watched the experiment along with everyone else, and it was fair.

A discussion followed. The business students were doing a project for their class in marketing. They said the experiment wasn't a sure thing, but that 90% of people with a strong brand preference for cigarettes couldn't tell the difference.

Then, the amazing part. They said that people without strong brand preferences could tell the difference. They asked for another volunteer, someone who smoked anything that was available. Yes, he could tell the difference, even among three brands. He even identified two of the brands by name from their flavor alone.

The lesson for Marketing was that people who were loyal to cigarette brands were not choosing because of taste. Something else was attracting their loyalty, the image or story that advertising placed around that brand.

I think this applies to politics. Most often, people with the strongest political preferences are not concerned about the details. They know what they like and what they hate. They are sure that it is because of the issues and choices, but they won't discuss those issues, and maybe can't name one.

Brand loyalty can be a defense against embarrassment. If you are not sensitive to the taste differences in cigarettes, at least your brand is strong and manly, or sophisticated and elegant.

If you don't understand the differences between free and controlled markets, high or low taxes, social control or social freedom, then at least you can be "for a strong defense", or "for the poor", without the embarrassment of discussing any of it.


Beer - It's Not the Taste, Stupid
By Tom Dougherty

[edited] Taste has nothing to do with brand preference. How can we possibly say that? For example, we have heard plenty of Bud drinkers proclaim that the only way bad-tasting Coors would cross their lips is when they are cold and dead. In our own blind taste tests, not a single beer drinker could tell which beer was Bud, Coors or Miller. This means that there is something else going on in beer brand preference and it is not about taste.

Sticker Shock Upgrades Perception of Plonk
01/14/08 at WSJ.com

[edited] The region of the brain associated with subjective perceptions of pleasantness, the orbito-frontal cortex, lighted up more strongly in people who thought they were drinking pricier Cabernet Sauvignon, even when the bottle was a falsely labeled cheaper wine, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers studied wine because of most people’s strongly held notions that price is linked directly to quality. In the study, 20 participants sampled wine while their brains were scanned using a fancy MRI machine. The volunteers thought they sampled five different wines, but actually tasted two of the three wines twice. A $90 bottle was tagged with its real price or marked at $10, and the price of a $5 bottle carried its real price or was upped to $45.

The price tag made the difference. Participants’ brain regions that are associated with pleasantness were more active when sipping what they thought was an expensive wine.

Suggested by a comment, at Wikipedia.

The Judgment of Paris 1976

[edited] The Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 ("Judgment of Paris") was organized in Paris on 24 May 1976 by British wine merchant Steven Spurrier. French judges did blind tasting of top-quality chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon wines from France and from California. California wines rated best in each category, a surprise. France was regarded as the producer of the world's best wines. Spurrier sold only French wine and believed that the California wines would not win.

Wine Tasting

[edited] People almost always report wine tastes better when they are told it is expensive. French researcher Frédéric Brochet served a mid-range Bordeaux in two bottles, one labeled as "grand cru", the other labeled as cheap table wine. Tasters described the "grand cru" as "woody, complex, and round", and the "cheap wine" as "short, light, and faulty".

Do more expensive wines taste better?
06/01/08 - Blind Taste by Robin Goldstein
  Via Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt

The non-expert does not rate them as better.

[edited] Individuals who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoyment from more expensive wine. We sampled more than 6,000 blind tastings. The correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative, suggesting that non-experts enjoy more expensive wines slightly less. However, there are indications that wine experts do enjoy more expensive wines somewhat more.

These findings suggest that non-expert wine consumers should not anticipate greater enjoyment of the intrinsic qualities of a wine simply because it is expensive or is appreciated by experts.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Post a Comment

You can use the HTML tags <b> <i> and <a href="">, but not <p> or <blockquote>. Trouble commenting? Email your comment or problem to Commerce-Try at Comcast.net. Leave out the minus sign. Mention the name of the post in the email.