Do Friends Influence Your Taste? Not Really, Study Says

Hemera/Thinkstock(CAMBRIDGE, Mass.) -- Have you always liked wearing oversized glasses and flannel shirts? Or do you like them just because your friends do? A group of Harvard researchers may have found the social logic behind these hipster trends.

The researchers kept tabs on the Facebook profiles of 200 college students for four years. They found that when friends liked the same kinds of music and movies, it wasn’t because they influenced one another’s tastes, but because their shared interests made them more likely to become friends in the first place.

“On Facebook, we found that peer influence plays virtually no role among students. Students do not tend to adopt preferences that their friends express,” said Kevin Lewis, a doctoral student at Harvard and the study’s lead author.

The researchers found that students who liked indie and alternative bands were more likely to drop those interests once their friends started liking them too.

“Part of these tastes is not just expressing them but being the only one in your social circle to express them,” Lewis said. “It’s not just about liking the band, but showing your peers that you’re hip, in the know, and socially distinct.”

Lewis and his colleagues did find one type of taste that tends to rub off among friends: the taste for jazz and classical music, perhaps because of its value as a, “high status cultural symbol,” the authors said.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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