Photo: captainslack on flickr
We were looking over past research by Wharton’s Jonah Berger, whose observations about fashion trends at Princeton University we published earlier, and came across a provocative paper from last year: Food, Sex, and the Hunger for Distinction [PDF].This paper offers another look at people’s desire for uniqueness versus conformity.
Berger and Baba Shiv concluded that people are drawn toward uniqueness when they are hungry or sexually aroused. This phenomenon is a type of cross-domain spillover, where an urge in one part of the brain triggers action in another.
In one experiment, men who had been exposed to sexy pictures were more drawn to unique things in a survey. What’s more men who had been exposed to sexy pictures and then given a candy bar were less drawn to unique things, suggesting that satisfying one craving can satisfy all cravings.
The tendency toward uniqueness was measured with questions like this:
“Suppose that you are in the market for a product and have a general idea about the preferences of your fellow students (e.g. in relation to car brands, you knew that 65% of students owned Brand A, 25% owned Brand B, and 10% Brand C). Which model would you be likely to purchase?”.
Other experiments tested subjects after stimulating their thirst with a sip of a tasty beverage; surveying students entering and leaving a dining hall; and asking how far people would walk for different foods.
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