Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bad Science can prove anything 50% of the time

Lead researcher psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman said: "These are remarkable results. People were unable to tell expensive from inexpensive wines, and so in these times of financial hardship the message is clear - the inexpensive wines we tested tasted the same as their expensive counterparts."

This is the rather incredible conclusion from a dodgy sounding experimented reported today here.

I don't know the criteria used or how the experiment was carried out - which wines, how the people were chosen, etc. However, regardless of how the experiment was carried out, the fact that 50% of people couldn't tell the difference between the cheaper wine and the more expensive wine doesn't mean they taste the same. It just means they couldn't tell which was which. I don't think it's remarkable, I think it's entirely predictable. The only thing that is remarkable is that someone would think it is remarkable.

There are good cheap wines. There are bad ones. There are good expensive wines. There are bad ones. In general, price can be an indication of quality, but often it isn't. This is exactly why you should buy wine in an independent wine shop or offlicence or at least somewhere where they know what they are talking about. They can steer you away from the pitfalls and, if they don't, you can go back and give them a hard time.

I think its remarkable that the BBC would carry a story without the slightest bit of scrutiny between a study and the conclusions you can draw from its results.

2 + 2 = 5 and all that...


David Marra said...

Let's not forget the fact that "most" people do not know how to taste wine properly. "Most" people can't tell the difference between brie & camembert, or grass-fed & corn fed beef, cubism & dadism, or the sound of Fender & Gibson guitars.

It doesn't mean they aren't different - it just means they're asking people who are unqualified to answer.

Gabriel Cooney said...

Well yes, I'm sure 50% of people couldn't tell Sauvignon from Chardonnay, but it doesn't mean they taste the same!