Invisible Influence Review For #CareerLions
On my last holiday, I got to go book-shopping in the US. One of the books I picked up is Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior by Jonah Berger. A very current topic today, where there is a growing group of so-called “influencers”. Berger explains why brands work with them and many other influences that shape our behavior in disguise. By creating a better understanding of the power of influence, you will be able to better balance embracing and resisting it. Today’s blog covers some of the invisible influences Berger elaborates on in the book as well as a short review.
Berger covers five main invisible influences that also form the structure of the book. The different chapters have funny names like:
- Monkey See, Monkey Do
- A Horse of a Different Color
- Not if They’re Doing it
- Similar but Different
- Come On Baby, Light My Fire
Now, I will provide you with a short recap for each of these invisible influences.
It may come as a deception for many, but our choices and behavior not driven by your personal tastes and opinions. Even though we may not consciously choose to mimic others, we tend to use others’ behavior as information, simplifying choice, and allowing us to pick better options than we would do by ourselves. Rewards and punishment have nothing on imitation. The phrase “to be a role model” actually has roots in behavioral theory. If anything, this is what is driving the growing demand for influencers. By having their products worn and used by these influencers on social media, followers get unconsciously influenced scrolling through their feeds. These invisible influences, in the end, result in purchases, as you are slowly adapting your personal tastes and opinions and start mimicking these influencers.
While others attract, they may certainly also repel. In many situations, it remains essential to maintain a separable identity. Even when our choices don’t deviate, we will still frame our choices in ways that makes us feel distinctive enough. Many of us have the same phones for instance, but we personalize by means of settings and choosing (personalized) protective cases. I still try to tell myself I chose Apple products based on rational arguments, rather than being a victim of their brilliant marketing strategy.
Another interesting concept mentioned by Berger is that our backgrounds also determine the degree of differentiation we crave. In certain cultures, fitting in is rewarded over individualism. Take Asian cultures for instance compared to American or European cultures. He also addresses studies that show working-class people prefer similarity, while those from a middle-class background avoid picking popular items. There is no wrong or right, there are just different needs in differentiation.
So, what drives whether we, in the end, imitate or differentiate from someone? Well, it has everything to do with who they are. We tend to base our choices on who else is making these. If it is someone we admire in a way, their choices will drive ours. Of course, the opposite holds as well. It is also exactly the reason you might not want to be caught wearing something associated with a community that has opposing views. Do you really want to wear the same outfit as the participants of Jersey Shore for instance?
Same Same, But Different
People are complex creatures. We want to imitate and differentiate, all at the time. We don’t want to be like everyone else, but we don’t feel the need to stand out of the crowd too much either. We maneuver through life, choosing and behaving in an optimally distinct manner. In the search for a perfect equilibrium between similarity and difference. Choosing that pair of shoes for instance that people in your environment would wear, in a different color or better yet a limited edition to make us feel comfortably different. To have your initials on your bag (yes, I am guilty myself) or personal design on a Dopper (a water bottle where mine has the Career Lions logo on it). Yes, I am also a victim of the “same same but different” influence.
Having Others Around
Studies have indicated that the presence of others can have a tremendous impact on our performance. Whether this impact is positive or negative depends on the tasks. The presence of others makes us excel at things that come automatic and natural to us, that are well learned. Having others around when we are faced with more difficult tasks that require more attention, makes us do worse. Others will make us feel threatened and anxious. This would be my description of taking my first drivers test. I can tell you, it did not end well. Others also form a referential point. The presence of an opponent in a competition that is on the winning end, also motivates us to turn losing into winning. However, only as long as the goal is still in sight. Studies have indicated that a gap that becomes too large contributes to quitting. Small example: I will never look like Doutzen Kroes, which is why I have given up dieting (after 2 hours).
Invisible Influence is a quick read that is filled with interesting concepts. However, some parts of the book seemed a little stretched and at times far-fetched. Especially at the end, the structure of the book got less clear. A book that you can easily read in one day (if you were to have no other obligations, does anyone have that luxury?) took me much longer. The book was not catchy enough to lose sleep over, but a fun and relevant read anyhow.
Are you ready to use these invisible influence insights in balancing embracing and resisting influence? And contemplating whether to purchase Invisible Influence by Berger? Share it with us in the comment section below!