Vice Squad
Thursday, January 17, 2008
 
Drug, Set, and Setting


Norman Zinberg's trichotomy remains too little appreciated. Earlier this week came word of an experiment that revealed that people prefer wine that they think, mistakenly, is expensive. That is, they like wine that they think is expensive more than they like the same wine when they think it is cheap. It probably isn't very surprising that they say they like the expensive wine more; what is novel in this experiment is that they sipped the wine while they were lying down in one of those functional MRI devices. It wasn't just that the subjects say they like the "expensive" wine more -- their brains respond to the "expensive" wine in a manner that suggests that they physically experience the wine as better when they think it is pricier. Zinberg's book long ago argued persuasively that the impact of a drug on a person is a function not just of the drug itself, but also of the social setting in which the drug is consumed, and of the mindset, including the expectations, of the drug user. "The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.
"

Alex at Marginal Revolution was not impressed, particularly with some of the interpretations of the article that are on offer. Surely the headline "Raising prices enhances wine sales" isn't justified by the research.

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