A recent paper by Michael Siegrist and Marie-Eve Cousin from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology suggests that information about a product may shape consumers’ taste experience.
In a wine tasting experiment, participants received (positive or negative) information about the wine prior to or after the tasting. When the information was given prior to the tasting, negative information about the wine resulted in lower ratings compared to the group that received positive information. No such effect was observed when participants received the information after the tasting but before they evaluated the wine. Results suggest that the information about the wine affected the experience itself and not only participants’ overall assessment of the wine after the tasting.
What this appears to show (quelle surprise!) is that a taster’s experience is influenced by what they’ve been told about a wine. What is more interesting is the way in which negative information given after the tasting does not seem to influence ratings in the same way as that given before. Thus, when you have ‘bad news’ about a wine it is probably best to wait until someone has tasted it before you mention it.
Siegrist M and Cousin M-E (2009) Expectations influence sensory experience in a wine tasting Appetite, Volume 52, Issue 3, Pages 762-765.
The illustration above by Tim Bulmer and is kindly used with his permission. This and other wine prints by Tim are available from the Art of Illustration.