What is Perception?
Perception is how the brain categorizes sensory information using past experience, connections to things it already knows, and environmental clues to understand its environment. A good example of how perception works is by taking a look at the Rubin Vase. When you do, you will likely perceive it as a vase. Primarily because you were told it was a vase and your brain knows what a vase is. But also the texture, material and shape all look like other vases you’ve seen. Your brain takes into account these things and you see the vase.
But what if you were told that what you were really looking at were faces? A few blinks and you would likely see the two faces, in profile, each facing the vase on their respective sides. You were told “faces” and your brain immediate began to recategorize the vase to see if it could be something else. This is a simple example of perception, one you’ve probably seen before.
How Does Perception Shape Our Daily Lives?
Everything in our lives is shaped by perception. The things we already know and have experienced shape how we take in new information, how we make decisions, and how we live ours lives. For example, if you have eaten a particular food and liked it, you will often be willing to try other foods you are told use that as an ingredient because you have already discovered that you like it – so you must like things it is in.
Many studies have been performed on perception, the most interesting, though, is probably The Milgram Experiment. This study tested humans’ reactions to authority figures. Milgram, a Yale psychologist, was interested in understanding the Holocaust. During the Nuremburg trials, many Nazis said they were “just following orders” and Milgram wanted to see if that were true. As with most psychological studies, there were a few twists.
Milgrim set up a testing room in the basement of a Yale academic building and went to work. The study was set up as follows:
- Grouping Of Subjects:Each group had three people: the scientist conducting the experiment, dressed in a white coat; the teacher; and the student. The teacher and student drew slips to get their roles. Both slips said, “TEACHER” but one of those drawing was an actor and would always answer LEARNER. Two people were “in” on the true experiment, the one ending up the TEACHER was actually the subject.
- The Directions:: The “LEARNER” would go into an adjoining room and listen to the TEACHER state a group of word pairs. After this the TEACHER would give one of the words and four possible choices. The LEARNER was to press a button corresponding with the answer that was the other half of the pair. If he got it right, the TEACHER would move on to the next question. If the answer was wrong, the TEACHER would use a dial to select voltage and give the LEARNER a shock with the push of a button. For each wrong answer the TEACHER was to move the voltage up a little, increasing the shock. He himself was given a small voltage shock at the beginning to see what it felt like. He was told that the study was to determine whether negative reinforcement would get people to remember things faster and better.
- The Question: Milgram wanted to find out whether or not people will blindly follow orders or if they would allow their conscience to decide. He used perception to control subjects.
- What Did Subjects Perceive? The person conducting the experiment (giving directions, in room with TEACHER) wore a white coat, explained equipment, and gave orders. The TEACHER perceived this person as an “expert”, a “doctor” and, as the study was curious about, an authority figure. The LEARNER, on the other side of the wall, did things during the rising voltage like bang on the wall, beg the TEACHER to stop, yelp in increasing volume, complain about a heart condition, and finally stop responding. Past experience would have the TEACHER perceive that the person was is pain, frightened, and eventually unconscious (or even dead).
Ethical questions aside, and there are many ethical questions, the experiment’s results were chilling. It reinforced The Theory Of Conformism which posits a relationship between a person’s being in a group and their decision-making power. In most cases, and especially in a crisis, a person will leave decision-making to a group and its leaders. It also reinforced the Agentic State Theory which looks at obedience. Milgrim said, “the essence of obedience consists in the fact that a person comes to view themselves as the instrument for carrying out another person’s wishes, and they therefore no longer see themselves as responsible for their actions. Once this critical shift of view of viewpoint has occurred in the person, all of the essential features of obedience follow.”
What Does This Have To Do With Tricking Friends Into Liking Cheap Wine?
We here at Winedom don’t suggest that you give your friends cheap wine and shock them if they don’t like it. No, we don’t recommend that at all. But we would encourage you to test The Journal of Marketing’s study and share with us your results.
The study suggests that if drinkers believe they are drinking an expensive bottle of wine, they will prefer it to lower-priced wine. The study will not work with those who have a sophisticated palette, but will work for the everyday enjoyer of wine. They produced a few different bottles and in a blind test told test subjects, whose brains were wired to scanning technology, the price points for each bottle. The brain activity showed that in most cases, drinkers brains reacted better to the bottles they were told were more expensive.
Personal taste aside, there is a good reason to believe this study. We are often reminded that, “you get what you pay for.” Items considered luxurious cost more, whether it’s hotel rooms, cars, or just more comfortable pajama pants. Makeup items that work magic? Always more expensive. We value that if we pay more we will get more, but there is more to wine than price. Vintage, climate, personal preference, varietal… all of these play a role in how we enjoy wine. But so does our perception. You like Merlot? Well try this $100 bottle. Just as someone who has tried a mango for the first time and loved it will likely try a mango smoothy, a drinker who knows they like a particular grape will perceive that they will likely like the wine – a $100? Sounds like a luxury bottle!
What do you think? Do you perceive more expensive wines as better tasting/quality? What’s your favorite splurge bottle? And what’s your favorite cheap wine?