Why do we overpay for speaker cables, cheese, watches and virtually every luxury good? It used to be a hobby of mine to see if people can tell the difference in blind comparisons between cheap A/V equipment versus expensive A/V equipment or cheap beer versus expensive beer and I will tell you from doing this many times that every single one of us massively overestimates our ability to tell the difference between cheap stuff and expensive stuff. I’ve made a ton of money betting against people whether or not they can tell the difference between things like aerated and non-aerated wine. It always goes the same way: when you tell people which is which they’re sure that they can tell the difference, and then the second you take away the labels they have no idea.
In college I saw an art history major who should have known better earnestly asked if a slide was a gesture drawing done by the previous beginner drawing class. She was mortified to hear that it was actually one of Rodins famous sketches. As a pretentious undergrad and a big Rodin fan I laughed at her but honestly I can see how anyone could make that mistake.
If you think that there’s something intrinsically and objectively better about fancy wine or fine art, you’re empirically wrong, but I wont try to persuade you of that anymore. Experiments show over and over that people can’t tell the difference between cheap and expensive wine, but this study that showed that people enjoy wines far more when told that they are expensive made me decide to shut up and try to enjoy luxury goods.
Why do we enjoy scarcer stuff more? I’m convinced that it’s because it pushes us to be present, which is really the best feeling in the world. We eat the local, organic vegetables slower and actually look at the fancy furniture we bought. These days, I’ve stopped engaging my contrarian instinct to prove people wrong and started enjoying what I’m paying for: the pleasure of actually experiencing what I’m paying for.