Foodies Are Fools

The evidence mounts:

Paying $27 for a burger might seem extortionate. But the chefs behind the most expensive burger in Washington, D.C. – a wagyu skirt steak burger at BLT Steak – can take comfort in new research suggesting that inflated prices can translate into inflated enjoyment:

new paper, forthcoming in the Journal of Sensory Studies, has found that we enjoy food more if we spend extra money on it. A team of researchers at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, led by David Just, carried out an experiment on 139 unwitting diners at an Italian restaurant in upstate New York. Customers were charged either $4 or $8 for an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet of pizza, salad, breadsticks, pasta, and soup; the researchers stopped them on their way out and asked them to fill out a short questionnaire on the amount they ate, the quality of the pizza, and their enjoyment of the whole experience. Diners who paid the higher price rated the whole lunch more highly, and judged the pizza more favorably on measures of taste, satisfaction and enjoyment. “The way people appreciate taste,” said Just, is tied into “expectations based on the presentation of the food or what other people have said. They interpret taste through that lens.”

Update from a reader:

I may be a foolish foodie, but the phenomenon Alice Robb describes is, I think, that of the Veblen Good, whereby the demand for (the conspicuous consumption of) a thing is driven by its price. That must surely be universal across any luxury category, so at least we foodists (my preferred term) are in good company.