5 ways to find value for money like monkeys do


capuchin 2Psychological studies reported in 2014 have shown that monkeys are better than humans at getting value for money.

Humans who were tested consistently said they preferred the taste of wine poured out of an expensively labelled bottle, compared to a cheaply labelled bottle (containing exactly the same wine).

It’s all too easy to fall for the idea that price reflects quality, isn’t it?

But brown capuchin monkeys could not be fooled the same way.

The researchers proved this by teaching monkeys to exchange tokens for food rewards – flavoured ice, jelly, or juice. The monkeys learned that some foods were cheaper than others. One token could buy three cheap rewards, or one expensive reward.

Did the monkeys take their one token and go for one expensive reward? No! Time after time, they used their token to buy three cheap (but still delicious) rewards.

Previous studies have shown that monkeys share many human biases when it comes to economics: they are loss-averse, irrational about risk, and prone to rationalising their decisions. This is one of the first areas in which monkeys have shown more rational behaviour than humans.

Yale University’s lead researcher on the study, Laurie Santos, says that this difference may be due to the fact that humans have a wider “marketplace” in which social interactions play a larger role than in the monkey marketplace. For example, if we know that many people regularly go to an expensive restaurant, we might assume that they like the food there, so it “must be” worth the price tag.

5 ways to be a monkey about price

Want to learn from our monkey friends?

  1. When you’re in the supermarket, don’t just dismiss the home brand option – try it out first! Surveys by Canstar Blue often show that Australian customers are more satisfied by the home brand options on offer.
  2. When you’re in a whitegoods store looking at small appliances, ask a salesperson to tell you all the differences between a cheaper model and more expensive model. Chances are the differences in power and operating features are very small, and in fact the reason for the price hike may just be the brand.
  3. When you’re thinking about where to go out for dinner, don’t think about what’s “fancy” – go for food you know you’ll really enjoy. Pizza Hut, anyone?
  4. When you’re buying something huge like a house or a car, don’t let a high price or an auctioneer make you think something is more amazing than it is. Look at enough houses and cars that you know exactly what value looks like, and how much you need to pay for it. It might be less than you think.
  5. When you’re looking at financial products such as which savings account is right for you, use the Canstar website to compare the options first. It compares everything from health insurance to superannuation funds, and has industry experts who know what to look for.

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