A heavy cold has meant I have not been drinking wine over the last week. I have quite enjoyed the break but it is a good job I am not a critic trying to meet copy deadlines for Christmas. My taste discrimination is completely shot so I have been trying to use my time constructively reading a few recent papers including;
Mantonakis, A., Rodero, P., Lesschaeve, I. and Hastie, R (2009) Order in Choice: Effects of Serial Position on Preferences Psychological Science Nov 2009, Vol 20, Issue 11, p1309-1312
This paper by researchers from Canada and the USA builds on work since the the mid-1950s undertaken by Ferrer Filipello, a wine researcher at University of California at Davis. When several choice options are sampled in sequence and a ‘best’ option is made at the end there is a strong primacy effect. This type of effect (a first impression bias) is seen across many areas of psychology and in this instance demonstrated that the first wine tasted tends to be selected as ‘best’ most often (despite the samples being the same). A selection of varieties were used to control for differences between styles and interestingly the tasters (apart from one familiar with the researcher’s work) did not pick up on samples being the same wine!
However, this is not the whole story as there has been recognition of a recency effect in wine tasting too i.e. the last wine tasted being selected more often. Mantonakis et al show that this is more apparent when the number of wines tasted increases (in this case from three to five) and the tasters are more experienced. She and her colleagues suggest a process model for this which identifies inexperienced tasters as more susceptible to the initial hedonic impact of the first wine whereas experienced tasters are more engaged and persistent in tastings. They conclude that this persistence and openess to wines later in the tasting sequence accounts for the recency bias.
Another point of note from the study was that Mantonakis and colleagues had to limit the ‘flights’ to 5 wines. They would have liked to have extended the sequence to a dozen wines but ethics committees do not allow this level of alcohol intake. A sobering thought during the festive period.