Los Angeles Times/15 January 2008
Why We Like Pricey Wines
Researchers show how marketing tactics
by Denise Gellene
When it comes to wine tasting, pleasure is in the price.
Using brain scanners to monitor the minds of wine drinkers, scientists found that people given two identical red wines got more pleasure from tasting the one they were told cost more.….
Researchers led by Antonio Rangel, associate professor of economics at Caltech, asked 20 volunteers to rank their enjoyment of small sips of five differently priced Cabernet Sauvignon wines while a functional MRI machine monitored the brain response. Volunteers also were asked to rate the flavor intensity of the wines.
Unbeknown to volunteers, two sets of wine samples were identical: the $5 and $45 wines ($5 actual price) and the $10 and $90 ($90 actual price). …
Volunteers were asked to rank the pleasantness of the wines. They liked the $90 wine best and the $5 wine least.
Brain scans showed that activity in the part of the brain that detects pleasure also moved in lock step with price. The medial orbital prefrontal cortex, which is located behind the eyes, showed the greatest activity when volunteers drank the wine marked $90 and the least activity when they sipped the wine priced at $5.…
Rangel said the findings showed that pleasantness of consuming a product relied not only on the product’s intrinsic properties, such as flavor in the case of wine, but also on certain beliefs, such as the notion that expensive wines will probably taste better, he said. By manipulating prices “we can change how wine tastes without changing the wine,” Rangel said. “It’s mind-blowing.”...
by Lewis Hyde
25 Anniversary Edition
Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1983, 2006, 2007 by Lewis Hyde
The artist appeals to that part of our being...which is a gift and not an acquisition—and, therefore, more permanently enduring. —Joseph Conrad
At the corner drugstore my neighbors and I can now buy a line of romantic novels written according to a formula developed through market research. An advertising agency polled a group of women readers....Even the name of the series and the design of the cover have been tailored to the demands of the market.…
Why do we suspect that Silhouette Romances will not be enduring works of art? What is it about a work of art, even when it is bought and sold in the market, that makes us distinguish it from such pure commodities as these?
It is the assumption of this book that a work of art is a gift, not a commodity. Or, to state the modern case with more precision, that works of art exist simultaneously in two “economies,” a market economy and a gift economy. Only one of these is essential however: a work of art can survive without the market, but where there is no gift there is no art.
There are several distinct senses of “gift” that lie behind these ideas, but common to each of them is the notion that a gift is a thing we do not get by our own efforts. We cannot buy it; we cannot acquire it through an act of will. It is bestowed upon us. Thus we rightly speak of “talent” as a “gift,” for although a talent can be perfected through an effort of the will, no effort in the world can cause its initial appearance. Mozart, composing on the harpsichord at the age of four, had a gift.
We also rightly speak of intuition or inspiration as a gift. As the artist works, some portion of his creation is bestowed upon him. An idea pops into his head, a tune begins to play, a phrase comes to mind, a color falls in place on the canvas. Usually, in fact, the artist does not find himself engaged or exhilarated by the work, nor does it seem authentic, until this gratuitous element has appeared, so that along with any true creation comes the uncanny sense that “I,” the artist, did not make the work. “Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me,” says D.H. Lawrence. Not all artists emphasize the gift phase of their creations to the degree that Lawrence does, but all artists feel it.
These two senses of the gift refer only to the creation of the work—what we might call the inner life of art; but it is my assumption that we should extend this way of speaking to its outer life as well, to the work after it has left its maker’s hands. That art that matters to us...is received by us as a gift is received. Even if we have paid a fee at the door of the museum or concert hall, when we are touched by a work of art something comes to us that has nothing to do with the price.… The spirit of an artist’s gifts can wake our own. The work appeals, as Joseph Conrad says, to a part of our being which is itself a gift and not an acquisition. Our sense of harmony can hear the harmonies that Mozart heard. We may not have the power to profess our gifts as the artist does, and yet we come to recognize, and in a sense to receive, the endowments of our being through the agency of his creation. We feel fortunate, even redeemed. The daily commerce of our lives—”sugar for sugar and salt for salt,” as the blues singers say—proceeds at its own constant level, but a gift revives the soul. When we are moved by art we are grateful that the artist lived, grateful that he labored in the service of his gifts. ...
from the introduction
EACH WEEK we scan ads from an actual catalog, a catalog selling junque. (That's junk with cachet.) These ads are real. Maybe they don't seem real, but they are.
THIS WEEK WE AGAIN FEATURE items from Hammacher-Schlemmer. I am not embarrassed to use H-M so often. They send me catalogs; I use their catalogs, and I must admit—no, I'm ashamed to admit—that in this catalog ("Last Minute Gift 2007") I have found something that I believe that I need, a world globe on a pedestal, a National Geographic World Globe on a pedestal. H-M charges $199.95, and I of course can buy it for less elsewhere. But in appreciation of their catalog, their providing abundant material, I just might buy it from them as a gesture of appreciation.
And continuing in that same spirit of appreciation, I am not going to say much about the items below, nothing risible from me about these items. Except to say that the alarm clock emits odors, OK, scents, OK, aromatherapy scents, to stimulate the greet-the-day process. The alarm clock emits scents. That's all I'm saying except for, Thank you, Mr. Hammacher and thank you Mr. Schlemmer.
Oh, and just note that the alarm clock aromatherapy package includes one jar each of coffee, lavender, energy and stress relief scents. Energy and stress relief scents. Just repetition, no comment. Energy scent. What the hell is an ENERGY SCENT?!!! Sorry.