Fine Wines and Vodkas

MIT researchers gave a group of patients all the same placebo for pain relief, according to the latest Men’s Health magazine. Some of the people were told the placebo was an expensive, brand-name medicine. Others were told it was a cheaper generic. Still, all of them were given the same empty pill.

Thirty percent more of the people who thought they were getting an expensive drug said it made them feel better.

It’s a phenomenon that works any way you cut it — if you tell people a hairstyle cost $200, they’ll think it’s better than if you tell them it cost $20 — even if in blind trials, they can’t tell the difference. The same goes for colleges; Clemson University charged more and people thought the higher price would mean they’d get a better education.

People will claim that more expensive vodka tastes better, but of course that’s because it’s more expensive .

A new study on wine shows similar results. If people are told a wine is more expensive, they’ll say it’s better than a cheaper wine, but $10 bottles beat out $150 in blind taste tests .

I wonder if this holds true in recruiting:
  • Do managers and recruiters sometimes think one job candidate is better than another, simply because they’re earning more?
  • Do people assume that someone who went to a higher-priced, more expensive college is somehow smarter than another person who did not? Do employers value, for example, a public education at brainiac New College less than one that costs exponentially higher?
  • When we hear that one recruiting technology vendor has a more expensive product, is our first thought: “it must be better”? Is this the case with the price of job-board listings?
  • Most interesting: does taking a job that pays less lead an employer to think someone is less skilled and less valuable than if that job candidate had taken a higher-paid job? In other words, if a math major earns half as much teaching high school math than had she/he gone into private business, and then applies for a job, does a prospective employer think that $50,000 teacher is less smart than the $100,000 math major at an accounting company?