Why do we strive to be unique, to be distinctly not like everybody else? Two sociologists recently asked themselves this question and came to some surprising conclusions. They designed an experiment requiring college students to write about a time they felt “distinct” and “separate from the group”. Compared to the control group who wrote about an unrelated topic, those prompted to think about their own distinctiveness were later willing to go to further lengths (walk further, pay more) for the things they desired.
What’s the Big Idea?
How does our drive for distinctiveness compare to our other base needs for food, sex and love? It turns out they are intimately intertwined but perhaps not in ways that we would expect. Individuals primed to think about sex, for example, desire distinctiveness. “We can [no] longer write off the ‘drive for distinctiveness’ as merely a habit of insecure teenagers. Instead, it appears to be a pretty essential component of Westerners—that’s why it’s engaged in a deep psychological dialogue with rewards for food and sex.”