Expectations influence sensory experience in a wine tasting

By mthomas

Illustration by Tim Bulmer

Illustration by Tim Bulmer

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.

appetite-journalWhat 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.

One Response so far

[...] In another study researchers exposed wine tasters to positive and negative statements about the wine; they did this both before and after they tasted the wine, but before they reported their impression of the wine. The comments affected the tasters’ evaluations of the wine when they occurred before, but not after, tasting the wine. This suggests that the tasters were not just following what they were told about the wine despite their experience, but rather than the positive and negative statements actually affected their experience of the taste of the wine. [...]

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