I don’t know about you, but I usually don’t like it when someone wears the same shirt as me, or orders the same drink as me, or does anything the same way I do it. While that may sound narcissistic and downright petty, it’s not. Or maybe it is. Either way, it’s completely normal, and guess what: you feel the same way whether you realize it or not.
According to consumer psychologists Dan Ariely and Jonathan Levav, this phenomenon derives from the human desire to signal individual uniqueness in order to stand out, because if everyone were the same, we would all be really, really boring. And that’s not what life is about. We need to be recognized for our differences, dammit!
Dr. Jonah Berger from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania even has an entire book on this topic, called Invisible Influence, which is about how the people around us subconsciously shape our everyday behaviors and decisions.
To validate this, Ariely and Levav conducted a study in a brewery where they offered two groups of people samples of one of four beers: an IPA, a lager, wheat beer, or an amber ale. Participants in one group wrote down which beer they wanted on a slip of paper, while another group ordered their beers aloud.
The results of the experiment found that participants who ordered their beer aloud were less satisfied with their choice than those who had ordered their beer privately, and were also three times more likely to regret their beer choice. “Why? Because many had switched their order to be distinct,” Berger writes. “They picked a different option than they would normally to avoid ordering the same beer as someone else."
So yeah, we’re all willing to be a little petty just to be different from our peers. But more so than that, we just prefer things outside the mainstream so that we can subconsciously fulfill our desire to be validated as unique in this world of seven-some billion people.
However, on a side note, just keep in mind that when this need for individuality goes too far, like in the community of unicycle-riding, deconstructed nacho-eating, kombucha-drinking hipsters, it’s counterintuitive, and everyone simply thinks you're a cult of annoying, cliche weirdos.
Therefore, like all things, moderation is key. Uniqueness included. The end.
H/T: Science of Us