We’ve always felt slightly guilty about how easily we are influenced by the packaging and presentation of our beer. This week, however, a friend tipped us off to a piece of research from 2004 which suggests we’re not being entirely irrational.
The experiment showed that people actually had a stronger pleasurable reaction to a soft drink when they were cued up to expect one brand or another, and presented with packaging.
Test subjects were given Coke and Pepsi without being told which brand was which. These drinks are chemically almost identical, as Samuel McClure points out. With no branding to refer to, the subjects showed about the same degree of “neural response” in the “ventromedial prefrontal cortex” in both cases. Then, when they were told which brand was which (when they were “brand cued”) they not only stated a preference for one over the other, but actually, measurably enjoyed it more.
So, maybe when we get all excited by the nice label on a bottle of beer, and the pretty glass it’s served in, and the quality of the head on the beer — stuff that shouldn’t really matter, but does to us — we have a similar chemical-electrical reaction?
We’re not scientists. If anyone would like to correct or elaborate on our primitive understanding of what this research means, go for it!