Brain Waves May Tell How Much We Would Pay For A Cup Of Coffee
October 11, 2013

Brain Waves May Tell How Much We Would Pay For A Cup Of Coffee

[ Watch the Video: Coffee Prices And Brain Scans ]

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

A German neurobiologist says that Starbucks isn't charging enough for your double tall, two-pump caramel white chocolate mocha.

Kai-Markus Müller is developing a new way to test prices by measuring brain waves, and he believes that Starbucks maybe missing out on some premium pricing.

"Everyone thinks that they've truly figured out how to sell a relatively inexpensive product for a lot of money," he says. "But the odd thing is that even this company doesn't understand it."

Müller, who reigns from the small town of Aspach in southern Germany, says that Starbucks gives away millions of dollars a year because they simply aren't charging enough for their coffee. The Neurologist is searching for "neuronal mechanisms" buried deep within the human brain that can't be deliberately turned off.

There is a center of our gray matter that monitors proportionality independently of reason, and this region functions according to simple rules, such as coffee and cake makes sense but coffee and mustard does not. Experts recognize this unconscious defensive reaction on the basis of certain waves that become visible using electroencephalography (EEG).

Müller used a small cup of coffee from Starbucks that costs $2.45 for his study. He showed the same pot of coffee on a screen several times to participants, but with different prices, all while scanning brain waves using an EEG. Strong reactions to coffee that was either priced too high or too low showed up in the brain within milliseconds, such as a small coffee costing $0.10 per cup.

"When the brain was expected to process unexpected and disproportionate prices, feelings of shock, doubt and astonishment manifested themselves," Müller reports.

The study found that subjects were willing to pay between $2.85 and $3.25 for a small coffee at Starbucks.

"In other words, the company is missing out on millions in profits, because it is not fully exploiting consumers' willingness to pay money," Müller said in a statement.

He and scientists from the Munich University of Applied Sciences performed a separate experiment using a vending machine installed in front of the university dining hall. Students were given the chance to decide how much they wanted to pay for a latte macchiato, which normally goes for about 80 cents. After several weeks, the average price for the Italian drink had leveled off at 95 cents.

"A study like this has never been done before, even though scientists have been studying brain waves for decades," says Müller.