Taste Testing in Politics

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has found himself in some hot water over racial remarks he made during the 2008 presidential election. Amidst the stir, one thing is strikingly absent: the outrage of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. It seems like every time a prominent figure makes a comment with even the slightest hint of racial overtones, those two "civil rights activists" pounce immediately. But not in this case. In my opinion, their noticeable silence after Reid's comments further proves my belief that these two Reverends have something other than equality on their agenda.

I just finished reading an excellent chapter in Predictably Irrational called "The Effect of Expectations". In this chapter, the author recounts the Pepsi Challenge, a study that essentially showed that in a blind taste test, a majority of people preferred Pepsi to Coke. Unfortunately for Pepsi, when consumers know which cola they are drinking, they prefer Coke to Pepsi. In other words, somehow Coke has branded itself in a way such that cola drinkers actually change the way they think about how something tastes, depending on the expectations they hold and experiences they have had.

My guess is that in a "blind taste test" (if you read Reid's quote without telling them who said it) that Jackson and Sharpton would be up in arms. Yet when they know that it came from one of their own (a powerful liberal), there is no controversy.

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