So, as I said in my entry on Marketing actions can modulate neural representations of experienced pleasantness, my (very) informal Wine Society was doing an expensive versus cheap red wine tasting event last night. We had 16 wines, half very cheap, half varying distances into the price range above merely decent wines. We had the bottles in front of us, but the contents had been carefully shuffled around, and we were set the task of sampling all 16 and recording (a) whether we thought any given one was good or bad, and (b) what we thought the actual contents were.
In the good vs. bad condition we scored one point for a correct answer and lost one for an incorrect answer. The best score was +10, and the worst was -8. (Full disclosure, I got -4.)
The best anybody did in the "what is this, really" task was 3 correct items.
It's not clear what, if anything this suggests. Having the bottles in front of us confused the cues mightily. Starting off the evening with brightly coloured cocktails and curried snacks may not have been the best preparation for our pallates. It is clear that sampling 16 dry red wines in rapid succession led to most members of the largish gathering becoming more opinionated and animated. I definitely became, temporarily, more good looking and charming.
More research is required. Billionare eccentrics with a mind to sponsor this important work should declare themselves in the comment thread. I'll likely be running our next meeting, and will report the results here.
(The cartoon is from Savage Chickens - check it out.)