cool products lead to recognition and respectBy examining how the brain responds to “cool” products, we discovered that they help fulfill a basic human need: to be recognized and respected by others. Our brains contain what’s basically a “social calculator” that keeps track of how we think other people are thinking about us—we feel its results as social emotions like pride and shame. Today, it’s typically called “social status,” but that has lingering negative connotations. We found that products are basically extensions of ourselves that reflect who we are—we use them to bond with others who share the same values. Doing this successfully was key to survival throughout human evolutionary history—you really needed allies, friends, and partners to survive.
fact is, overconfidence can get you far in life. Cameron Anderson, a psychologist who works in the business school at the University of California at Berkeley, has made a career of studying overconfidence. In 2009, he conducted some novel tests to compare the relative value of confidence and competence. He gave a group of 242 students a list of historical names and events, and asked them to tick off the ones they knew. Among the names were some well-disguised fakes: a Queen Shaddock made an appearance, as did a Galileo Lovano, and an event dubbed Murphy’s Last Ride. The experiment was a way of measuring excessive confidence, Anderson reasoned. The fact that some students checked the fakes instead of simply leaving them blank suggested that they believed they knew more than they actually did. At the end of the semester, Anderson asked the students to rate one another in a survey designed to assess each individual’s prominence within the group. The students who had picked the most fakes had achieved the highest status.