In the study, 139 diners at an all-you-can-eat buffet were given the choice of either a $4 option or an $8 option — but, both groups were served the same food. The subjects were asked to rate their enjoyment of the food several times throughout the meal as well as their emotions after they had finished. The data showed that those who paid more for their meal enjoyed it 11% more than the budget group, even though both groups were served the same food.
In fact, those who paid less were more likely to report that they felt guilty about what they ate and that they felt like they had eaten too much, even though both groups ate the same amount of food overall. The budget group also reported lower levels of enjoyment over the course of the meal.
This study hints at a few social mores. We've been conditioned to view expensive food as a mark of class — or at least of high quality. Conversely, we're warned that cheap food is unhealthy and we learn to associate it with feelings of guilt, which explains the remorseful bargain diners. There's also more at risk if a fancy meal ends up being disappointing (your paycheck and your unfulfilled cravings, for two). This study suggests that your brain could be more likely to respond positively to a meal if the monetary stakes are higher, in essence saving you from that regret. So, you can justify your next foodie splurge with the knowledge that it's sure to taste so much better than another pack of instant Ramen — that's a scientific fact. (Science Daily)