Fashion Statement: Putting Your Mouth Where Your Money Is

Jun 20, 2019

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 2019 NPR. To see more, visit