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The hipster effect: Why anti-conformists always end up looking the same

Synchronization

When there are equal proportions of hipsters and conformists, the entire population tends to switch randomly between different trends.

For example, if the majority of individuals shave their beards, then most hipsters will want to grow a beard. If this trend becomes the norm, hipsters will switch to shaving.

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The hipster effect: Why anti-conformists always end up looking the same

The hipster effect: Why anti-conformists always end up looking the same

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/613034/the-hipster-effect-why-anti-conformists-always-end-up-looking-the-same/

technologyreview.com

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Key Ideas

The hipster effect

The hipster effect is when people who oppose mainstream culture find out that their unique choices are similar to millions of other people. In an attempt to be different, they all end up looking the same.

Similar effects show up among investors and in other areas of the social sciences.

Delayed reaction

People do not react instantly when something highly fashionable becomes available. The information spreads slowly through online platforms, word of mouth, and so on.

In general, the population of hipsters first act randomly, then go through a phase transition into a synchronized state.

Synchronization

When there are equal proportions of hipsters and conformists, the entire population tends to switch randomly between different trends.

For example, if the majority of individuals shave their beards, then most hipsters will want to grow a beard. If this trend becomes the norm, hipsters will switch to shaving.

The important role of hipsters

Aside from the choice of clothing, there may be important implications in understanding the synchronization of nerve cells, investment strategies in finance, or emergent dynamics in social science.

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The bandwagon effect

It's a cognitive bias that causes people to think or act in a certain manner because they believe that other people are doing the same.

For example, the bandwagon effect might cause...

Examples of the bandwagon effect
  • The bandwagon effect can influence people’s political choices.
  • It can influence consumers’ decisions regarding which products to buy.
  • It can influence users’ decisions regarding how to rate stories or comments.
  • It can influence investors’ financial choices.
  • It can influence doctors’ medical decisions.
  • It can influence organizations’ implementation of new technologies.
Why the bandwagon effect happens

It serves as a mental shortcut that people instinctively use in order to make a decision quickly.

Specifically, bandwagon cues, which are signs that other people believe something or are doing something, can trigger the thought that “if other people like this, then I should too”.

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Ego Depletion
Ego Depletion

Ego depletion happens when people use up their available willpower on one task.

We all have natural urges, desires, and tendencies that demand attention. When we curb those ...

Self Control

People having a high level of self-control experience better relationships and have higher achievement levels. Lack of self-control is associated with social conflict and low-grade academic performance.

Example: While following a diet regime, a person spends a lot of willpower the whole day trying to avoid junk food, but by the end of the day, all his mental energy has been exhausted, and there is no self-control left, resulting in snacking on unhealthy food.

Causes of Ego Depletion

Many emotional and physical factors contribute to ego depletion, like:

  • Emotional distress
  • Struggling to learn something new
  • Mental fatigue due to anxiety
  • Low levels of blood sugar
  • Too much choice
  • Conflicting beliefs and actions (cognitive dissonance)
  • Heart Rate
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Being young and immature.

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Social norms

People tend to conform to behaviors that are common among other people, even when they know that those people did not make their choices freely, and when the decision does not mirror their own desi...

Common reasons for conforming
  • One common explanation: we that if everyone else is choosing to do one thing, it is probably a good thing to do.
  • Another common explanation: we fear that failing to follow a norm may have negative social consequences.
The self-categorization theory

The idea of the self-categorization theory is that people conform to the norms of certain social groups whenever they have a personal desire to feel like they belong.

It is irrelevant whether a norm reflects people's preference, as long as the behavior is associated with the group.

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