Sunday, May 01, 2011

Stories change our world...

After a wonderful meal with old friends last night, I awoke to read this:

You see what happened there? Even though their assumption about wine was false – the more expensive Cabernet didn’t taste better – that assumption still led to increased pleasure, both as measured in terms of self-reported preference and as a function of brain activity. Sure, that pleasure is a figment of our blinkered imagination, but what part of pleasure isn’t an imaginary figment? Instead of bemoaning this subjectivity, we should embrace it. We should realize that we can make our wines much more delicious, if only we take the time to learn about them. Because we don’t need to spend a fortune on old fruit juice – price is not the only way to raise expectations. (It’s also, you know, an expensive way to raise expectations.) If my tippling experience has taught me anything, it’s that we can also make our wines taste better by delving into the history of the varietal or the region or the pretty picture on the label. And that’s why I will always be one of those annoying people who insists on muttering about malolactic fermentation while pouring Chardonnay, or on explaining the genetic kinship between Primitivo and Zinfandel when all you want is a damn glass to go with your red-sauce pasta.The reason I harass my dinner guests is that our stories have consequences, that our beliefs often matter more than the grapes. The question is what those stories are. If the only story we can tell about wine is its price, then our pleasure will always linked to cost, even though this link doesn’t exist in most taste tests. A much better (and more cost-effective) idea is to find some other narrative, to focus on aspects of wine that don’t require a big expense account. Knowledge is free. [More]
I had read several times about similar studies and those results always made me wonder how I could forget the price of the bottle I just bought. But this may be a case of not being able to fool yourself, but you can add to the pleasure of others. First, of all don't natter on about the price unless it was a notch higher than they have come to expect in your home. I even wonder about the ethics of inflating the price so folks enjoy it more.
I am sure there are other social transactions where this phenomenon applies. So being a habitual storyteller may make your company a welcome part of a gathering. It would also seem to help if you are more optimistic - filling in details about the shared experience in progress that add positively to enjoyment. 
Funny old brains.

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