What makes things cool? – Caleb Warren 

We all recognize cool people and products when we see them, but what is it that makes something cool? Caleb Warren uses an experimental approach to uncover how people, products, brands, art, and behaviors come to be seen as cool. Caleb Warren is an assistant professor in the Marketing Department at the University of Arizona. He studies what makes things funny and what makes things cool.

 

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The status symbols we buy, wear, and drive make people want to do business with us — but not be our friends

That BMW isn’t earning you any pals.Angela Weiss/Getty Images for Icelink

Source: The status symbols we buy, wear, and drive make people want to do business with us — but not be our friends

Shana Lebowitz, Business Insider

  • New friends may be turned off by status symbols like fancy cars, watches, and clothing.
  • Business contacts may find those same status symbols appealing.
  • Still, people tend to assume that sporting posh accessories will make them universally appealing,
  • That’s according to a new scientific paper published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Here’s a tip for anyone having a hard time making new friends: Ditch the Rolex. Or, at least, put it aside until your next work meeting.

That’s according to a new paper published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. Results from a series of studies showed that status symbols — think a Tag Heuer watch — can repel friends, even while they attract business contacts.

The researchers call it the “status signals paradox,” because participants in the studies incorrectly assumed that their fancy accessories would make them more appealing to potential friends.

In one study, university students were asked which of two people they’d prefer to have a “get-to-know-you” conversation with. Participants were less willing to choose a New Jersey native who was interested in hiking, running, and concerts when that person had a BMW and a Canada Goose jacket than when they had a Honda and a Gerry jacket.

Another study illustrates the importance of context.

Adult participants were asked to imagine attending a wedding where they were hoping to make either new friends or new business contacts. In both contexts, most participants said they would drive a luxury car (as opposed to a basic car) to appeal to others. But people were more likely to want business contacts who drove a luxury car than friends who drove a luxury car.

“At a societal level, we may be wasting billions of dollars on expensive status symbols that ultimately keep others from wanting to associate with us,” study co-author Kimberlee Weaver Livnat, at the University of Haifa, said in a statement.

Previous research has found that designer labels can make people seem wealthier and higher-status. In a 2011 study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, participants were more likely to select hypothetical job applicants wearing a shirt with a brand-name logo than a shirt without a logo.

Meanwhile, Business Insider’s Dennis Green reported on the benefits of “dressing for success.” One 2014 study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, found that men wearing suits earned more money in mock negotiations than men dressed neutrally or in sweatpants.

Bottom line: When you’re meeting with a potential client, feel free to bust out the bling. But when you’re trying to forge a new friendship, stick to the basics.

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Forget shiny Rolexes and Louis Vuitton handbags — rich people are investing more in education and health, and it shows that discreet wealth is the new status symbol

Is flaunting Lamborghinis, Rolexes, and diamonds a thing of the past for the rich? Showing off wealth is no longer the way to signify you have it.

The wealthy are showing off their riches less. Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Source: Forget shiny Rolexes and Louis Vuitton handbags — rich people are investing more in education and health, and it shows that discreet wealth is the new status symbol

Hillary Hoffower, Business Insider

  • Long synonymous with dripping diamonds, flashy Lamborghinis, and shiny Rolexes, rich people are being more discreet about their money.
  • Showing off wealth is no longer the way to signify having wealth.
  • Investing in things like education and health helps the rich propel social mobility and gain access to what the middle class cannot.

Owning a Louis Vuitton handbag, a multimillion-dollar Bugatti, or a shiny Rolex has typically been a marker of elite status.

But such flashiness is becoming less ubiquitous among the ultra-high-net-worth crowd. They’re spending more than ever before on security and privacy, trading in hilltop houses for homes in neighborhoods hidden from Google Street View.

And in an era where mass consumption means both the upper class and the middle class can own the same luxury brand, the rich are forgoing material goods to invest in immaterial means as a way to signify status. It’s what Elizabeth Currid-Halkett calls “inconspicuous consumption” in her book “The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of an Aspirational Class.”

It’s the opposite of “conspicuous consumption,” a term conceived of by Thorstein Veblen in “The Theory of the Leisure Class” referring to the concept of using material items to signify social status — a hallmark of previous elite spending, Currid-Halkett wrote in an article last year.

A flashy display like a luxury handbag no longer signifies wealth the way it used to.Anke Grelik/Getty Images

Essentially, showing off wealth is no longer the way to signify having wealth. In the US particularly, the top 1% have been spending less on material goods since 2007, Currid-Halkett wrote, citing data from the US Consumer Expenditure Survey.

It’s a growing trend among not only millionaires and billionaires, but what Currid-Halkett calls “the aspirational class.”

“This new elite cements its status through prizing knowledge and building cultural capital, not to mention the spending habits that go with it,” Currid-Halkett wrote, adding, “Eschewing an overt materialism, the rich are investing significantly more in education, retirement, and health — all of which are immaterial, yet cost many times more than any handbag a middle-income consumer might buy.”

Investing in education propels social mobility

That inconspicuous consumption often goes unnoticed by the middle class but noticed by a fellow elite is what makes it so discreet. Currid-Halkett described it as a shorthand for the elite to “signal their cultural capital” to each other and cement status. It “reproduces privilege” in a way that flaunting luxury couldn’t, she said.

Displaying knowledge, such as referring to New Yorker articles, expresses this cultural capital, giving a person leverage to climb the social ladder and make connections, Currid-Halkett wrote.

“In short, inconspicuous consumption confers social mobility,” she said.

yaleInvesting in a top-notch education is one way the rich are showing off their wealth.Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

J.C. Pan of The New Republic described how parents try to reproduce their class position for their children: “They buy their kids boutique healthcare, take them on enriching trips to the Galápagos, and — most importantly — equip them with every educational advantage, from high-end preschools to SAT tutors to Ivy League tuition. In 2014, the top 1% spent 860% more than the national average on education.”

Just consider the rich families who are spending millions to live within walking distance of the country’s best public elementary and secondary schools, or those paying as much as $60,000 for a college tour via private jet — they make such an investment in education in hopes of setting their children up for a successful, well-connected future.

And often, the parents invest in their own knowledge and achievement by working all the time, another modern way of signifying status, Business Insider’s Shana Lebowitz reported.

As Currid-Halkett put it: “For today’s aspirational class, inconspicuous consumption choices secure and preserve social status, even if they do not necessarily display it.”

Health and wellness also signify status

Vogue reported in 2015 that health and wellness had become a luxury status symbol, and it makes sense.

And in an analysis last year, the Financial Times columnist Simon Kuper wrote that “the cultural elite spends relatively little on beauty products, but splurges on exercise, because it thinks that bodies (like food) should look natural.”

“The thin, toned body expresses this class’s worldview: Even leisure must be productive,” Kuper continued. “Instead of trawling shopping malls, class members narrate their family hikes on Facebook.”

The wealthy are investing in health, including pricey memberships at gyms like Equinox, to indicate status.Equinox Facebook

Some well-off New Yorkers pay up to $900 a month for a membership at Manhattan’s Performix House, an elite gym with a rigorous application process, a private entrance, and a content studio for social-media influencers.

It’s the same feeling evoked by stepping out of a $30 SoulCycle spin class to buy a $10 green juice, or having a $200-plus membership to one of the nation’s swankiest gym chains, Equinox, which even offers a $26,000 ultra-exclusive membership for the traveling mogul.

“It’s like the only acceptable lifestyle brag,” a spin enthusiast told Vogue. “You are a douche if you brag about your car or how much money you make, but bragging about how much you spin is normal, though still very annoying.”

 

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Best Christmas ads 2018: Watch Google’s amazing Home Alone Again and more

Watch Macaulay Culkin revisit his glory days in the Google Home ad, plus many more excellent festive commercials.

Source: Best Christmas ads 2018: Watch Google’s amazing Home Alone Again and more

    

We thought we’d seen the all the Christmas adverts this year already, with only a few days left until the big day itself. However, Google has arrived late to the party with what could be the best of them all.

Its Home Alone Again commercial, posted on YouTube, is quite simply brilliant. It brings Kevin McAllister (Macaulay Culkin) back for a modern retake on the classic Christmas movie – one of our favourites of all time.

You can watch it below, along with a selection of the best Christmas adverts that have appeared on UK TVs or online during the 2018 festive period.

Google: Home Alone Again

Imagine what Kevin McAllister’s Home Alone experience would have been like with a Google Home digital assistant.

It must also be said that Macaulay Culkin is looking great these days. Would be good to see him more active on TV or film in 2019.

John Lewis: The Boy and the Piano

You might be a bit sick of it by now, and it’s no patch on former years’ efforts, but the 2018 John Lewis Christmas ad is still one of the best around.

We’re not convinced many small kids will be getting pianos this year though.

Twitter: #NotARetailStore

While you can watch the actual John Lewis advert above, spare a moment for the real John Lewis who is regularly inundated on Twitter by confused customers.

Twitter brilliantly captured this in its own festive advert this year.

Waitrose: Fast Forward

Another great John Lewis spoof comes from one of the retailer’s own brand partners, Waitrose.

It apes a lot of family’s thoughts on the annual unveiling of the JL Christmas ad.

Aldi: Kevin the Carrot and the Wicked Parsnip

Aldi went all out with its Kevin the Carrot Christmas adverts this year, with several reimagined fairy tales featuring an evil parsnip.

This is our fave, not least for the punchline.

Sainsbury’s: The Big Night

Sainsbury’s went with the tried and trusted children’s Christmas play for its 2018 commercial.

Here, you can see a much longer version than the one aired on TV. We still like the bit with the plug.

Iceland: Say Hello to Rang-tan

You won’t have seen this Iceland advert on British TV this Christmas as it was banned for being too political.

However, it is a great commercial with a good message that’s well worth a watch.

Apple: Share your Gifts

To highlight the creative applications possible with Apple devices, it made a wonderfully animated short film about a girl afraid to show others her work.

The much longer version than shown on TV is available above.

McDonald’s: Reindeer Ready

As a follow up to last year’s McDonald’s ad, the 2018 version now features Santa treating his own herd to the fast food chain’s “Reindeer Treats”.

To be honest, they’d probably have preferred Big Macs.

Visa: Keep it Local this Christmas

Finally, another good message, this time from Visa.

With online shopping and Christmas deliveries being easier than ever, don’t forget the humble high street shop keeper who relies on your custom – especially at this time of year.

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Touching sandpaper can make you more generous

How SANDPAPER can make you more generous: The feeling of rough surfaces boosts empathy and charitableness

  • Asking people to touch a rough surface can make them more empathetic
  • Researchers primed study participants and monitored their responses
  • Those who held rough surfaces were more willing to donate to charity
  • The findings could help smaller charities trying to raise their profile and boost donations, by including rough textures in their mailing materials

Researchers at Drexel University in Philadelphia found that asking people to touch a rough surface, such as sandpaper, can make them more empathetic and more likely to donate money.

Source: Touching sandpaper can make you more generous

By RYAN O’HARE FOR MAILONLINE

When it comes to securing donations, rather than opting for charm, charities might be better off taking a more abrasive approach and aim to rub the public the wrong way.

Asking people to touch a rough surface, such as sandpaper, can make them more empathetic and more likely to donate money.

The findings come from a study in which researchers found that feeling mild discomfort from rough surfaces helps people to become more aware of the plight of those in less fortunate circumstances.

‘We found that when people were experiencing mild discomfort as a result of touching a rough surface, they were more aware of discomfort in their immediate environment,’ said Dr Chen Wang, an assistant marketing professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia and lead author.

Dr Wang added: ‘They could better empathize with individuals who were suffering.’

Over the course of a number of experiments participants were asked to view either ‘painful’ or ‘neutral’ images while holding an object which either wrapped in rough or smooth paper.

Scans of their brain activity showed a peak in activity with the rough stimulus, compared with the smooth surface.

The researchers explain that the findings could help smaller charities trying to raise their profile and boost donations (illustrated, stock image), just by including rough materials in their mailing materials
The researchers explain that the findings could help smaller charities trying to raise their profile and boost donations, just by including rough materials in their mailing materials.

A separate experiment involved participants washing their hands with rough or smooth soap.

Following this task, people were asked how willing they were to donate to a charity for Sjogren’s syndrome – an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks the glands which produce tears and saliva.

The results showed that those who had used the rough hand soap were more willing to donate to the charity.

However, while this effect was seen for a niche charity, it wasn’t seen for the more mainstream non-profit organisations.

By using psychological priming – where people are exposed to a stimulus, such as a cold object, or a rough surface – the team was able to boost people’s awareness, which opened the door for increase empathy.

The researchers explain that the findings could help smaller charities trying to raise their profile and boost donations, just by including rough materials in their mailing materials.

‘The goal of our work is to make a social impact,’ said Dr Wang.

‘It’s critical to identify novel approaches to meet the massive humanitarian needs in our complex, modern world, and I hope we have done that.’

Writing in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, the authors explained: ‘These findings not only underscore the power of subtle contextual cues on shaping important behaviors, but also point to the possibility of developing novel intervention strategies for promoting empathy and pro-sociality.’

The physical priming of people has long been shown to be an effective tool in psychology experiments.

In a famous 2008 experiment, researchers at Yale showed that temperature could be used to prime people’s judgement of others, linking physical and psychological warmth.

After priming participants with rough hand soap, people were asked how willing they were to donate to a charity for Sjogren's syndrome - an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks the glands which produce tears (stock image) and saliva - and were more willing to donate to the charity

After priming participants with rough hand soap, people were asked how willing they were to donate to a charity for Sjogren’s syndrome – an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks the glands which produce tears (stock image) and saliva – and were more willing to donate to the charity

By asking study participants to briefly hold a warm or an iced coffee, experimenters primed their subjects without their knowledge.

In a subsequent trial, those who had been primed with the physical warmth of the coffee judged a target person as having a ‘warmer’ personality than those who had been primed with the cold drink.

A second trial showed that those who had been primed with physical warmth were also more likely to give a gift to a friend rather than keep it for themselves.

While the physical effect is powerful, priming can also be achieved by simple picture and word association.

For instance, simply by displaying images of food items participants are more likely to fill in the blank in ‘so_p’ to make ‘soup’.

But when the same word is displayed surrounded by bathroom items, such as shower gel, a person is primed to think of personal cleaning products,  and so will more likely complete the word as ‘soap’.

 

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An Evolutionary Theory For Why You Love Glossy Things

People’s taste for shiny stuff might be rooted in a very basic instinct.

Image: Sports car via stephen rudolph / Shutterstock

Source: An Evolutionary Theory For Why You Love Glossy Things

BY ERIC JAFFE

The evidence that people are drawn to shiny things is all around us: from the pages of lifestyle magazines to the page stock of lifestyle magazines. One logical explanation for this cultural affection is that we’ve come to associate gloss with wealth and luxury. If the story ended there, though, we wouldn’t expect very young infants to enjoy shiny things as much as they do, nor would we expect remote tribes like the Yolngu of Australia to celebrate shimmering aesthetics as much as they do. There’s clearly a bit more to glitter than gold.

Recently a group of marketing scholars considered the question from an evolutionary angle. They were intrigued with some earlier research showing that “children who were presented with glossy objects licked them,” one of the scholars, Vanessa M. Patrick of the University of Houston, tells Co.Design. In that work, published several years ago, infants seven to 12 months old put their mouths to glossy plates much more than to dull ones. Children had also been seen lapping shiny toys on the ground, the way an animal might drink from a puddle.

Patrick and her fellow collaborators, from Ghent University in Belgium, wondered if there might be something more to these reports than kids just being kids. Maybe the connection between drinking and shiny design was an evolutionary artifact–a sign that our crush on glossy is rooted in a primitive desire for water as a vital resource.

So they designed a series of six experiments to test that idea. First they had to demonstrate that preference for glossy is a natural reaction rather than a learned association with the good life. That wasn’t too tough. In two simple surveys, they established that both adults (via leaflets) and four- to five-year old children (via pictures of Santa) preferred glossy to matte finishes. The kids were too young to appreciate marketing efforts connecting bling with wealth; to some degree, their preference had to be innate.

 

 

The appeal of glossy might not be entirely linked to wealth, but it might still reflect a basic enjoyment of pretty things. To study that possibility, the researchers blindfolded 46 test participants and handed them a piece of paper. Half received a glossy sheet, half a matte sheet. Participants who held the glossy sheet rated it as higher quality and more attractive than those in the matte group–even without getting a look at it.

The tests suggested there’s more to glossy than cultural connection or visual appeal. Those findings alone didn’t mean a biological urge for water played a role, but the researchers did collect some clues to that effect. In the blindfold test, for instance, participants envisioned more water when asked to imagine a landscape depicted on the page–showing a perceived link between shiny and wet. In another test, this one without blindfolds, participants rated aquatic images as glossier than desert ones, although in truth there’d been no difference.

As a final experiment, the researchers divided 126 test participants into three groups. One group ate a bunch of crackers without any water. Another ate the crackers but also drank some water. A third did neither. Afterward, each group looked at eight photographs, half on glossy paper and half on matte. All three groups preferred the glossy pictures, but the groups that had eaten crackers rated them as much more attractive. And the thirstier participants got–in other words, the greater their desire for water–the more they preferred glossy.

Taking all their findings together, the researchers argue in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology that an instinct for water may indeed play a role in fondness for glossy. “First and foremost, this paper shows that our preference for glossy might be deep-rooted and very human,” says Patrick. “It is humbling to acknowledge that despite our sophistication and progress as a species, we are still drawn to things that serve our innate needs–in this case, the need for water.”

 

There’s a great deal to like about this study. The researchers crafted their experiments carefully, tried to eliminate alternative explanations, and presented a theory for others scientists to explore further. At the same time, there’s a lot to question. People may associate shiny stuff with wealth, for instance, but they associate water with wealth, too. Parsing out how much of the glossy-water connection is socialized and how much might be instinctual is a great challenge that no study can hope to conquer on its own.

Beyond that, any explanation for why we prefer glossy to matte must also account for the fact that we don’t always prefer glossy to matte. Sometimes glossy interferes with readability (say, a sign that reflects bright light). Sometimes it conveys the wrong message (say, a glossy food ad that conjures up thoughts of grease). And sometimes it’s just enough already and we want something different. Evolution might drive some preferences, but preferences evolve, too.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Jaffe is an editor at CityLab, where he writes about transportation, history, and behavioral science, among other topics, through the lens of urban life He’s also the author of The King’s Best Highway (2010) and A Curious Madness (2014).

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Say buy buy to the blues: Picking goods and paying for them really does banish sadness, says a study into retail therapy

A shopping spree really does make you happy, says new research

‘High’ street: A shopping spree really does make you happy, says new research

‘High’ street: A shopping spree really does make you happy, says new research

Source: Say buy buy to the blues: Picking goods and paying for them really

By Roger Dobson

Choosing something to buy makes shoppers more happy, less sad and feel more in control than when they are simply browsing, according to new research.

In the study, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, researchers from the University of Michigan carried out three experiments to investigate whether shopping restored a sense of control in people to counter feelings of sadness. Shopping was up to 40 times more effective at giving people a sense of control, and they were three times less sad compared to those who only browsed.

The researchers said “retail therapy” should no longer be dismissed, and that it could help people overcome sadness. Previous studies have shown that shoppers enjoy positive feelings when reflecting on their most recent purchase, when that shopping had been motivated by a desire to repair mood. Others said they were less likely to experience sadness while shopping than immediately before setting out on a buying spree.

However, researchers said until now it had remained unclear whether shopping conveys benefits beyond those produced merely by distraction, or the passage of time. “Our work suggests that making shopping choices can help to restore a sense of personal control over one’s environment and reduce sadness,” the researchers said.

“Retail therapy – shopping that is motivated by distress – is often said to be ineffective, wasteful and a dark side of consumer behaviour, but we propose that retail therapy has been viewed too negatively, and that shopping may be an effective way to minimise sadness.”

Retail therapy has been described as a way of regulating stress, along with overeating, and alcohol consumption. When the researchers asked men and women for the first word that came to mind at the mention of “retail therapy”, they were more than twice as likely to use a negative word, such as nonsense or debt, than a positive one, such as fun or enjoyment.

In one experiment, men and women were divided into choosers and browsers before looking at 12 products, from slippers to headphones, and asked to select four. Results show that 79 per cent felt more in control while choosing, compared with 2 per cent of browsers. Choosers were also three times less sad.

“Our experiments provided support for the notion that making shopping choices helps to restore a sense of personal control over one’s environment, and thus helps to alleviate sadness,” the study said.

“Our work suggests that restoring personal control after it has been lost may help to extinguish the emotion that elicited the appraisal.”

And with that, cash machines across Britain should be braced for extra demand.

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