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👅 The simulacrum of good taste
I stumble across a Nobel Prize-winning experiment conducted in the open air on primetime TV!
I pride myself on sifting through the tailings of low culture to present you with highbrow insights into the human condition.
I’m increasingly fascinated by personal choice: how free am I to choose? Do I have the psychological tools to truly, consciously, consensually choose anything? Who I vote for, who I love, what ice-cream I prefer…
Or are all my ‘choices’ better defined as the temporary intersections of opportunity, habit and deception?
Come on in! The water’s lovely. 🏆
Highfalutin me intended to draw some flecks of gold from
Until fate presents me with a ticking fact bomb I feel obliged to lob in your direction.
Channel 4’s primetime special: Secrets of Supermarket Own Brands
Secrets of Supermarket Own Brands follows Denise Van Outen as she dives deep into the world of own-brand products to reveal the truth behind the purse friendly goods.
The main thrust of the show is about branded goods versus supermarket own brands.
TLDR: supermarket own brand products are generally made in the same factories as their branded equivalents. Sometimes the ingredients/recipes are exactly the same as their branded equivalent. More often, the ingredients/recipes are slightly different. The difference is arguably so negligible to us consumers that our choice boils down to marketing, convenience, and….
And this is where Denise conducts the experiment that I nominate for the Nobel Prize in Economics (only cos there isn’t one for psychology, unless that nests under ‘Physiology or Medicine’)
She takes to the mean streets of Anytown, England to set up an ice-cream cart and get random passers-by to eat two ice creams.
People munch first on an ice cream picked from behind the colourful poster on the left, as Denise and her research assistant tell them stories about how many times the chocolate is rolled, and/or how Italian the premium ingredients are, and/or how happy the cows are that produce it.
Then, the experimentees eat an ice cream from behind the handwritten sign on the right. Both ice-creams look the same. The munchers are asked to compare the taste of the two ice creams.
Without (broadcast) exception, the ice-cream munchers prefer the one from behind the printed poster with the story. They back their preference with qualitative words like sophistication, quality, mouth feel and more.
What’s more, they still prefer that ice cream EVEN AFTER they are told that both ice creams are exactly the same.
Even then, they still describe the ‘unbranded’ one as ‘too sweet’ and all sorts of nasty things.
This confirms my worst fears about the rational basis of my personal choices
In situations where there is no quantitative difference between two things, a qualitative difference can be easily injected by image and word - spurring me to claim to have made a categorical choice.
Imagine what can be achieved by tactical marketing of much more qualitative things: like political candidates, organisations, goods or services.
Do I own any part of my choice? Or my choice entirely thrust upon me?
How on earth can I tell?
Worst of all, if I am vocally disappointed in the results of a choice I’ve purportedly made (e.g. Margarita Pizza over Hawaiian… what was I thinking?!) I note that a common - and early - response from either without or within is…
“well, that was your choice.”
Of which price is a factor.