Dog Food Taste Tests and the Psychology of Luxury Foods

| 2/27/2009 10:17:44 AM

duck pateIt must have been quite a party:

“What did you do on New Year's Eve?"

"Um, I watched my friends eat dog food.”

Yikes. It sounds like these friends were on the losing end of a bet. Apparently, though, they did it in the name of science—helping Science Magazine’s John Bohannon test some theories on the psychology behind luxury food purchases. He wondered what feeds the demand for pricey foods. Do people really enjoy them, or do they just feel like they should? Some research has suggested that price influences our perception of quality. A study on wine preferences, for instance, found that most people can’t pick out expensive wine by taste, and, on the whole, tend to favor cheaper versions if they're not aware of the cost.

In his taste test, Bohannon placed the dog food alongside pâté, liverwurst, and Spam. His subjects weren't fooled: They consistently rated dog food as the least appetizing option.  

Image courtesy of star5112, licensed under Creative Commons.

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