Consuming Illusions

Van Mensvoort
March 19th 2008

Expensive wine tastes better.

So you thought the 'consumption of illusions' was a typical digital world activity of second life residents and gaming addicts? Never underestimate virtuality in everyday life.

Take wine as an example. What makes people buy an expensive bottle of wine rather than a cheap one? It turns out wine price influences taste. Associate Professor of Economics Antonio Rangel and colleagues from the California Institute of Technology asked 20 people to sample wine while undergoing functional MRI's of their brain activity. The researchers told the subjects that they were given five different Cabernet Sauvignons sold at different prices. In fact, they were given only three wines, two being offered twice, marked with different prices.

A $90 wine was marked with its real price and also marked $10, and another with its real price of $5 and also marked $45. The results were shocking. The subjects showed more pleasure at the higher price than the lower one, even in case of the same wine. It means that changes in the price of the wine changed the actual pleasure.

The researcher made up a conclusion that the brain might compute experienced pleasantness in a much more complex way by integrating the actual sensory properties of the substance with the expectations about it.

Source: Calltech press release. See also: Virtual Characters Tortured for Science, Vin Memoriam, French USB Wine, Get Wasted in Second Life.

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Posted 19/03/2008 – 19:55

Yes, but I don't think that test would foul a true wine connaisseur.

Should men be able to give birth to children?

Lisa Mandemaker: Using an artificial womb could lead to more equality between sexes, but also between different family layouts. If men would be able to give birth to children, it would maybe be easier for male same-sex couples to have a child together.

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