I’m talking about wine, which I do not drink, but I know that some wines are extremely expensive and others are quite cheap. University studies have shown that, when given the price before being asked to taste it, a part of the mind is activated that makes the taster believe that the product is better if it costs more. When the price tags are removed, even wine “experts” like the cheap stuff better! Funny, huh? Another study used energy drinks and found that, when participants paid more, they believed that the drink worked better than the identical beverage with a lower price. What, are we all a bunch of snobs? I guess this means we should buy generics whenever we can, since it is usually the SAME PRODUCT! So, here is a question for you Starbucks fans – does the coffee you get there REALLY taste better? Or does it maybe only costs like it should taste better?
The same part of our brain that thinks it is getting a better product if the price is higher can also be fooled into thinking that something works even when it doesn’t, which actually makes it work sort of – I am talking about the placebo effect of course. If we think we are about to take a pain medicine, that part of our brain kicks in before we swallow the pill. Sometimes this is so effective that we can feel better without taking any actual medicine at all.
Chapter 5 is full of fascinating examples of another interesting phenomenon: too many choices can actually cause us to make poor decisions. Studies have been done involving predicting student achievement in college, and even playing the stock market – across the board, less information leads to better decisions, on average. Jonah points out that this is particularly important to know given that many of us do not buy anything without first hitting Google and reading every possible review on a particular item. I am one of those people – I can spend hours researching a product before I am satisfied that my money will be well spent (an exception? – books – I often choose them based on the cover, and I am usually not disappointed).
Then there is the scariest part of the chapter – how many of you have ever suffered back pain? Well, he describes how doctors used to prescribe bed rest, and that patients usually got better in seven weeks or less (I know someone who had to be on bed rest for her back when I was a little kid – she read a lot of books and got better). Well, enter the MRI, where doctors can now see detailed pictures of what our backs look like. Now, instead of bed rest, many doctors diagnose slipped discs and all sorts of serious back problems, and often recommend surgery. The trouble is, some studies have shown that, when shown MRIs of perfectly normal people who are not in pain, doctors tend to diagnose serious problems and recommend surgery! A quote: “medical experts are now encouraging doctors not to order MRIs when evaluating back pain.” Maybe our backs are just bumpy!
So, what are three things we can learn from this chapter, according to me?
- I can have more time for reading and blogging if I stop researching every single detail (seriously, I have been trying to start this blog for nearly a year, and then I finally told myself “just start writing already!”).
- We can save a lot of money for organic food if we buy generic everything else.
- If our back is hurting, maybe we should do more yoga.
Scroll down for other posts about How We Decide:
Post 1: Quarterbacks have to take IQ Tests
Post 2: Emotions Control our Brains
Post 3: One Marshmallow or Two?
Post 4: The Cheap Stuff Tastes Better
Post 5: Moral Instincts Are Emotional, Not Rational
Post 6: Political Pundits vs. Dart-Throwing Chimps
Post 7: Want to be a Psychic Poker Player?