Posts Tagged ‘richard wiseman’

Rip It Up

Sunday, September 9th, 2012 | Books

I’ve recently finished reading Richard Wiseman’s new book Rip It Up.

If you’re not familiar with Wiseman, he is a psychologist based in Edinburgh, and the man that showed expensive wine doesn’t taste any better.

It’s an excellent demonstration of Wiseman’s brilliant business skills. The book encourages you to change your actions and this is done by literally ripping the book up – you are supposed to tear pages out. This was somewhat difficult on my Kindle but means if you really want to get the most out of it – you have to buy a new copy every read. Genius.

Beyond that, the book looks at the As If principle, first proposed by William James, that suggests that rather than our thoughts influencing our behaviour, it is actually our behaviour that influences our thoughts.

Take this example – we often assume that we smile because we are happy. But the As If principle suggests that it is actually the other way round – we are happy because we smile. The book goes into hundreds of examples of this, but if you want to test it out now, why not spend a minute or two smiling and see if you feel any different?

Assuming that for the moment we put some stock into this, why does it mean? Well, there are lots of real-world applications.

For example, if you’re dieting, and you have a chocolate bar on your desk – try pushing it away from you. According to the theory, this will create the idea in your mind that you like it less, and so will less tempted to eat it. I’ve often done this anyway, though I’ve often attributed it to getting it further away from my eye line.

Another example, get over procrastination by allocating a few minutes to starting a task. This should be easier, as you can just tell yourself you’re going to do 2-3 minutes and then take a break. But once you find yourself doing it, it will be easier to continue.

In any case, it certainly makes for an interesting read. You can find out more on the book’s website.


Thursday, August 23rd, 2012 | Science

At last year’s Edinburgh Science Festival, Richard Wiseman demonstrated that people can’t tell the difference between expensive wine and cheap wine. It was covered in both The Guardian and The Telegraph. In fact, one of the funniest things about the whole business was some of the snobbery from the Guardian’s readers.

“Expensive is when you get to the £50 – £100 plus range. That’s when you really taste the difference.”

“Let’s do this with £2.99 against £299 instead. I think you might find the results aren’t quite the same.”

“£10 is expensive eh?
Pour them a glass of 2000 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc (the besr white I have ever tasted) at £60 a bottle and see if you get the same responses.”

“I ‘ve had £100 a bottle wine I CAN TELL THE DIFFERENCE!”

The wine community didn’t seem to appreciate the results. Wine of the Week bolding told his readers that new evidence would be just around the corner.

WineOfTheWeek is aghast at such claims of label snobbery, and will bet his Tommy Hilfiger jeans that contradictory evidence will soon follow.

I presume he meant to say “against”. Unfortunately for him, more than a year on, and the new evidence has still yet to arrive. Wine Anorak did a slightly better job of arguing against, pointing out that members of the public weren’t given two wines to directly compare, but only one, and asked to say whether it was a cheap or expensive one.

Actually, this makes perfect sense though. You never (or at least I never) buy two bottles of wine, do a quick taste test and throw the bad one away. You just buy one bottle of wine (with others perhaps to follow later) and your enjoyment is based solely on that. As Richard himself said, “to keep it as realistic as possible, we presented them with a single glass of wine and they had to say whether inexpensive or expensive”.

Even if you want to poke your nose up at Richard’s experiment, a full paper has been previously published on the topic by the University of Minnesota. Here is what they concluded.

Individuals who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoyment from more expensive wine. In a sample of more than 6,000 blind tastings, we find that the correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative, suggesting that individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines slightly less. For individuals with wine training, however, we find indications of a positive relationship between price and enjoyment. Our results are robust to the inclusion of individual fixed effects, and are not driven by outliers: when omitting the top and bottom deciles of the price distribution, our qualitative results are strengthened, and the statistical significance is improved further. Our results indicate that both the prices of wines and wine recommendations by experts may be poor guides for non-expert wine consumers.

So there you have it. You can’t tell the difference between an expensive wine and a cheap wine. So you might as well pick up the cheap bottle. Indeed, with the money you’ll save, why not buy two bottles of the cheap stuff, taste them, and throw the least pleasant one away.

I need a snappy and witty title to cover this week

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011 | Events, Humanism, Life

On Monday, we headed down to Sheffield Skeptics to see a talk by Richard Wiseman. Despite struggling to see the screen, which is a little annoying in a talk mostly about optical illusions lol, it was a really enjoyable evening and managing to get a quick chat with Richard I can see it was well worth going down for.

On Tuesday, Atheist Society began it’s regular Tuesday night meetings (See You Next Tuesday 😉 ) with a screening of the Chris Morris film, Four Lions. It’s an awesome film and well worth a watch. Though it did take us ages to get the film working despite bringing it on four different formats! So you can’t say we didn’t have a backup plan lol.

On Wednesday, I headed up to York for a York Brights meeting. It has been a while since I last saw them and could be a while again with Perspective Citywide starting so it was good to see everyone, and interesting conversation was provided aplenty as always.

Finally, on Thursday I was at a Humanist Society of West Yorkshire committee meeting which was great because the meeting was both efficient and productive – which tends to make a change from most committee meetings I’m in lol.