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Fashion Statement: Putting Your Mouth Where Your Money Is

Researchers say we often recognize peer pressure in the actions of others — but not in our own choices.
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Researchers say we often recognize peer pressure in the actions of others — but not in our own choices.

A while back, Jonah Berger was talking with a lawyer friend from Washington, D.C. The friend was lamenting the impact of social influence on his peers.

He was saying, "'God, you know, all D.C. lawyers are the same. They make it big, and they go out and they buy a new BMW.'

And I said, 'Don't you drive a BMW also?' He said, 'oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, but, you know, they all drive gray ones. And I drive a blue one.'"

Our friends may not be independent thinkers, but we are...right? Not quite. Researchers have found that many of our personal preferences are heavily shaped by the whims and wishes of others.

This week, we talk with Jonah Berger about how our choices are influenced by social context. Then, Neeru Paharia takes a closer look at our behavior as consumers. She says the things we purchase send invisible signals – projecting the values we have, and the identities we want.

Additional Resources:

Invisible Influence by Jonah Berger, 2016.

"Sweatshop labor is wrong unless the shoes are cute: Cognition can both help and hurt moral motivated reasoning," by Neeru Paharia, Kathleen D. Vohs, and Rohit Deshpandé in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, (2013).

"The Underdog Effect: The Marketing of Disadvantage and Determination through Brand Biography," by Neeru Paharia, Anat Keinan, Jill Avery, and Juliet B. Schor in Journal of Consumer Research, 2010.

Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Jennifer Schmidt, Rhaina Cohen, Parth Shah, Thomas Lu and Laura Kwerel. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Shankar Vedantam is the host and creator of Hidden Brain. The Hidden Brain podcast receives more than three million downloads per week. The Hidden Brain radio show is distributed by NPR and featured on nearly 400 public radio stations around the United States.
Tara Boyle is the supervising producer of NPR's Hidden Brain. In this role, Boyle oversees the production of both the Hidden Brain radio show and podcast, providing editorial guidance and support to host Shankar Vedantam and the shows' producers. Boyle also coordinates Shankar's Hidden Brain segments on Morning Edition and other NPR shows, and oversees collaborations with partners both internal and external to NPR. Previously, Boyle spent a decade at WAMU, the NPR station in Washington, D.C. She has reported for The Boston Globe, and began her career in public radio at WBUR in Boston.
Laura Kwerel