You can’t tell the difference

In a 2007 study, researchers from the California Institute of Technology and Stanford’s business school found that people enjoy more expensive wine more than cheaper wine–even if the two wines are the same. Article. If you think the wine is more expensive, you like it more.

A separate study showed that test subjects rated a wine higher if they were told beforehand that a wine expert had rated it highly. Those who were told that the wine was rated as “average” rated the wine considerably worse. Both groups rated the wine differently from those who weren’t given any advance information about the wine’s rating.

In Is Bottled Water Better Than Tap?, John Stossel describes how the 20/20 team took five different national brand bottled waters and a sample of New York City tap water to a microbiologist for testing. The microbiologist could find no significant differences among the waters. The idea that bottled water is safer than tap water is just flat wrong.

But does bottled water taste better? 20/20 ran a blind taste test that included five bottled waters and that good old New York City tap water. Many of the participants were bottled water drinkers who were convinced that they could tell the difference between bottled water and tap water. They couldn’t. Tap water tied for third in the taste test. The cheapest bottled water (Kmart’s American Fare) came in first. The most expensive water, Evian, was rated as “bad” by almost half of the testers.

Do a little searching and you can find similar tests by the truckload. Dedicated Bud Light drinkers can’t tell the difference if you replace their beer with Coors Light. If you slap an expensive label on a bottle of cheap wine, the snobbiest wine snob you know will be hoodwinked, praising the wine and your good taste. Fill an Aquafina bottle with tap water and the most tap-averse of your friends will gladly swig it down. Wrap a block of store brand cheddar cheese in a label from some artisan cheese place, put the Ritz crackers in a fancy package, and nobody at your hoity-toity wine-and-cheese party will know the difference.

Face it, Coke, Pepsi, and the store-bought cola all taste like battery acid. In a blind taste test, almost nobody can tell the difference.

Store brand canned goods are often packaged in the same plant as national brands. The only difference is the label that gets stuck to the can at the end of the line. The contents are no different.

Of course, you can tell people this all you like. Hell, most of your friends will agree. Except, of course, they can tell the difference. Sure. And everybody in the country thinks he’s an excellent driver.

The truth is that the vast majority of people (and that almost certainly includes you and me) can’t tell the difference between the $5 chardonnay and the $50 chardonnay, whether you’re drinking tap water or Dasani, or whether the eggs are organic, free-range, or factory-farmed.

Face it, the reason you can’t tell any difference is because there isn’t a significant difference. Get over it. Or at least admit that your preferences are based on marketing hype, snobbishness, or something other than actual taste.

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