The majority of our life decisions are made on the basis of our assumptions regarding where they will position us within the social context or with people in general. That's not to say that we do everything comparing ourselves to others – although we certainly often do – but rather that we understand that we are an organism of our environment and are always - consciously or otherwise - reflecting on how we fit into our world.
It is this highly ingrained instinct – present in every person who functions as a part of society, regardless of his or her level of materialism or “Joneses” Achilles heel – that influences our sleeping habits, what time we eat meals and how often, the non-verbal cues we give a speaker to indicate our attention. It also influences our preferences.
And studies have shown that, despite the fact that many of us regard trends with skepticism and maintain an individual outlook on our lifestyles, it is only a select few that have the power to inspire these trends among others. And once those with influence indicate to a social group that a brand of shoes or a particular book or a political candidate is the “right” one, the mass is content to follow. This doesn’t happen by chance, but is ignited by a select few with the capacity to understand the depth of our instinct to follow, and what metrics we use in deciphering which trends – and social norms – to align ourselves.
Check out these WSJ articles: