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Some People Really Judge You by the Brands You Choose

by Katie Moritz
November 1, 2017 | Living

The internet is blowing up with news about the iPhone X. Preorders for the pricey smartphone started this week. If you know somebody who put their name on the list, are you judging them for being slavishly committed to the Apple brand?

Maybe not. Though we assume that other people are judging us for the brands of our electronics (there's certainly a friendly iPhone/Android rivalry) and our clothes and the makes of our cars, not everybody makes assumptions about someone's character because of these material things.

Brands rewire pbs

There is a certain category of person, researchers have found, that aren't inclined to make judgements about someone based on stuff.

Flexible or fixed?

Past research on human behavior has suggested that we universally make judgements about others based on what they buy. But a new study by Ji Kyung Park of the University of Delaware and Deborah Roedder John of the University of Minnesota suggests that only certain kinds of people make assumptions about a person based on the things they own.

Someone with a flexible mindset is less likely to judge others by the brands they choose, the researchers found. This type of person believes peoples' behavior changes over time and in different situations. They're less likely to make a judgment based on a brand choice of a single point in time.

On the other hand, someone with a fixed mindset believes that people, and their behavior, never really change. To these folks, what you do, including what you buy, predicts your personality. A person with a fixed mindset is more likely to judge you because of your brand choices.

Don't judge a book by its Mercedes

Brands rewire pbs

To figure out how different types of people think about brands, the researchers asked some participants to look at photos of people using luxury-brand items, and others to look at photos of the same people using unbranded items. Some saw a guy driving a Mercedes-Benz, others saw the guy driving a logo-free car. Some saw a woman eating Godiva chocolates, and others saw the woman eating brandless chocolates.

The people who looked at the photos were asked to deduct and rate the man and woman's personality traits, and answer a series of questions to determine their own mindset—flexible or fixed.

The fixed mindset crowd rated the man driving the Mercedes as more sophisticated than the man driving the brandless car. Same for the woman eating branded and unbranded chocolate.

But the flexible mindset folks rated the man and woman at the same level of sophistication, regardless of the presence of luxury brand logos. That means people with flexible mindsets are less prone to make a judgement about personality based on fancy stuff. The same could be said about brands that have an opposite reputation.

In today's fashion world where logos are having a moment—especially retro ones—your clothes do say something about who you are, for better or for worse. Because some people do make judgements based on brands, companies would be well-advised to make clothing and products that downplay or do away with logos and branding to appeal to customers who are afraid of being judged for those things, the researchers believe.

For some people, fashion is a huge part of self-expression. If the fear of judgment prevents you from buying and wearing the things you love, remember that many people don't think like that at all.

Katie Moritz
Katie Moritz was Rewire's senior editor from 2016-2020. She is a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores and pho. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.
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