- “Why Do Hipsters Steal Stuff?”, Branwen 2022
- “Demand for Rarity: Evidence from a Collectible Good”, Hughes 2022
- “Magical Contagion and Commemorative Plaques: Effects of Celebrity Occupancy on Property Values”, Ayton et al 2022
- “Emotionally Numb: Expertise Dulls Consumer Experience”, Rocklage et al 2021
- “When a Master Dies: Speculation and Asset Float”, Penasse et al 2020
- “The Perfection Premium”, Isaac & Spangenberg 2020
- “Birkin Demand: A Sage & Stylish Investment”, Newsom 2016
- “On the Nature of Creepiness”, McAndrew & Koehnke 2016
- “The Evolutionary Genetics of Personality Revisited”, Penke & Jokela 2016
- “Managing an Iconic Old Luxury Brand in a New Luxury Economy: Hermès Handbags in the US Market”, Lewis & Haas 2014
- “Celebrity Contagion and the Value of Objects”, Newman et al 2011
- “The Evolutionary Genetics of Personality”, Penke et al 2007
- “Conduct Without Belief and Works of Art Without Viewers”, Veyne & Ferguson 1988
- Scarcity (social psychology)
Many fashions and artworks originate as copies of practical objects. Why? Because any form of optimized design is intrinsically esthetically-pleasing, and a great starting point.
Countless genres of art start in appropriating objects long incubated in subcultures for originally practical purposes, often becoming fashionable and collectible because no longer practically relevant, such as fancy watches. This seems a little odd, and leads to weird economic situations where brands bend over backwards to try to maintain ‘authenticity’ by, say, showing that some $5,000 pair of sneakers sold to collectors has some connection to a real athlete.
With an infinite design-universe to explore, why does this keep happening and why does anyone care so much? Why, indeed, is l’art pour l’art not enough and people insist on the art being for something else, even when it blatantly is not?
Because humans respond esthetically to not simply complexity or ornamentation, but to the optimal combination of these in the pursuit of some comprehensible goal, yielding constraint, uniqueness, and comprehensibility. A functional goal keeps artists honest, and drives the best design, furnishing an archive of designs that can be mined for other purposes like fashion.
For that reason, the choice of a goal or requirement can, even if completely irrelevant or useless, be a useful design tool by fighting laziness and mediocrity.
2022-hughes.pdf: “Demand for Rarity: Evidence from a Collectible Good”, (2022-02-28; ):
Markets for art, coins and other collectibles, culinary delicacies and eco-tourism suggest that consumers value the rarity of many goods. While empirical evidence supports higher prices for rare goods, isolating the value of rarity has proven difficult.
goods that are designated as rare trade at higher prices than functionally equivalent substitutes. Importantly, I use novel features of this market to account for scarcity, observed and unobserved product characteristics and separately identify rarity effects.
These results have important implications for markets ranging from luxury goods to conservation of endangered species.
…In this market, the manufacturer labels goods according to 4 different rarity categories that approximate relative rarity. However, changes in product design combined with manufacturing technology constraints affect the market supply within and across rarity categories over time. Using these changes, I calculate the odds of obtaining a particular card in a retail pack, a proxy for quantity. Then, using 2 different empirical strategies, I non-parametrically estimate the effect of odds on prices and separately identify the effect of rarity. To do this, I collect secondary market prices on thousands of unique goods (cards) from a popular online marketplace [TCGplayer]. I combine these data with detailed product-level information where I observe every characteristic appearing on each card. By comparing functionally equivalent and, in some cases otherwise identical cards, I isolate the effect of rarity designation from other factors such as scarcity and unobserved quality.
The 2 empirical approaches form upper and lower bounds on the rarity values.
The first strategy leverages variation in prices and odds across different cards in each of the rarity categories. I collect data on ~3,600 recently-printed cards over a 6-week period in 2019. I employ a cross-sectional hedonic framework using fixed-effects for observed product characteristics to flexibly model functional differences across cards. I show prices are inversely related to the odds of obtaining a particular card in a retail pack. However, conditional on these odds and product characteristics, prices are substantially higher for cards with rare designations. On average, prices for cards in the highest rarity category are between 70 and 90× higher than cards in the common category, all else equal. I present several robustness checks investigating the salience of scarcity and the possibility of unobserved (to the econometrician) product differences across rarity categories. To the extent that remaining unobserved quality differences are not captured by the model, these estimates are an upper bound on the true rarity values.
The second strategy uses variation in rarity designation within individual cards that are reprinted, many times more than once, at different rarity categories. I collect prices for ~600 cards that experienced these ‘rarity shifts.’ I account for observable and unobservable card characteristics with individual card fixed-effects. Since the rarity-shifted cards are identical other than the change in rarity designation, I attribute observed price differences to rarity value. I find prices are substantially higher for cards printed with rare designations relative to the same cards with common designations. For reasons discussed below, rarity values measured by these rarity shifts are likely biased downwards and therefore represent a lower bound on the true rarity values.
In both empirical approaches, I can easily rule out cost-based explanations for the observed price differences because manufacturing costs are equivalent across rarity categories. The observed price effects are also independent of scarcity value, as captured by the odds of obtaining a particular card in a retail pack, and do not seem to be driven by functional differences across cards. Since both empirical approaches yield large positive rarity values, these results are perhaps the best evidence to date in support of a demand for rarity.
…Moving from common to rare increases log price by 0.445 or about 56 per cent. Moving from common to mythic rare increases log price by 0.726 or about 107 per cent. The effect for foil cards is similar in magnitude. These results, namely that variation in rarity designation within-card yields large price effects, are quite remarkable and provide further evidence of rarity effects.
“Magical Contagion and Commemorative Plaques: Effects of Celebrity Occupancy on Property Values”, Ayton et al 2022
2022-ayton.pdf: “Magical contagion and commemorative plaques: Effects of celebrity occupancy on property values”, (2022-02; ; similar):
- Data on transaction prices of residential properties in London are analyzed.
- Properties with commemorative plaques signal the residence of notable individuals.
- Transaction prices of properties increase after commemorative plaques are installed.
In many places commemorative plaques are erected on buildings to serve as historical markers of notable men and women who lived in them—London has a Blue Plaque scheme for this purpose.
We investigated the influence of commemorative Blue Plaques on the selling prices of London real estate. We identified properties which sold both before and after a Blue Plaque was installed indexing prices relative to the median prevailing sales prices of properties sold in the same neighborhood.
Relative prices increased by 27% ($165,000 as of July 2020) after a Blue Plaque was installed but not in a control set of properties without Blue Plaques, sold both before and after a Blue Plaque was installed in close proximity.
We discuss these findings in relation to the theory of magical contagion and claims from previous research suggesting that people are less likely to acknowledge magical effects when decisions involve money.
[Keywords: contagion, kudos, superstition, affect, intuitive evaluation]
2021-rocklage.pdf: “Emotionally Numb: Expertise Dulls Consumer Experience”, (2021-03-15; ; ; similar):
Expertise provides numerous benefits. Experts process information more efficiently, remember information better, and often make better decisions. Consumers pursue expertise in domains they love and chase experiences that make them feel something. Yet, might becoming an expert carry a cost for these very feelings? Across more than 700,000 consumers and 6 million observations, developing expertise in a hedonic domain predicts consumers becoming more emotionally numb—that is, having less intense emotion in response to their experiences. This numbness occurs across a range of domains—movies, photography, wine, and beer—and across diverse measures of emotion and expertise. It occurs in cross-sectional real-world data with certified experts, and in longitudinal real-world data that follows consumers over time and traces their emotional trajectories as they accrue expertise. Furthermore, this numbness can be explained by the cognitive structure experts develop and apply within a domain. Experimentally inducing cognitive structure led novice consumers to experience greater numbness. However, shifting experts away from using their cognitive structure restored their experience of emotion. Thus, although consumers actively pursue expertise in domains that bring them pleasure, the present work is the first to show that this pursuit can come with a hedonic cost.
The death of an artist constitutes a negative shock to his future production; it permanently decreases the artist’s float.
We use this shock to test predictions of speculative trading models with short-selling constraints. Symmetrically to Hong et al 2006, where an increase in float decreases turnover and price, an artist’s premature death leads to an increase in prices and turnover.
We document that, as predicted by our model, premature death increases prices (54.7%) and secondary market volume (63.2%) permanently, and this effect is larger if an artist dies young or is more famous.
[Keywords: speculative bubbles, asset float, short-sales constraints, heterogeneous beliefs, art auction]
This research documents a perfection premium in evaluative judgments wherein individuals disproportionately reward perfection on an attribute compared to near-perfect values on the same attribute.
For example, individuals consider a student who earns a perfect score of 36 on the American College Test to be more intelligent than a student who earns a near-perfect 35, and this difference in perceived intelligence is substantially greater than the difference between students whose scores are 35 versus 34. The authors also show that the perfection premium occurs because people spontaneously place perfect items into a separate mental category than other items. As a result of this categorization process, the perceived evaluative distance between perfect and near-perfect items is exaggerated. Four experiments provide evidence in favor of the perfection premium and support for the proposed underlying mechanism in both social cognition and decision-making contexts.
[Keywords: perfection, categorization, numerical cognition, social cognition]
…In four experiments, we find that even when the objective numerical gap between two values is equal, people perceive the difference between individuals and items to be greater if one has a perfect attribute value or rating. For example, the perceived difference in intelligence of two students scoring100% versus 99% on an exam exceeds the perceived gap between students scoring 99% versus 98%, even though the scores differ by 1% in both cases.
[Part of this is just a ceiling effect: if one hits the ceiling on a test by scoring a perfect score rather than falling short slightly, that represents a lower bound—the person scores at least that high, and so likely scores higher, and if the test is not an extremely good one, then potentially arbitrarily much higher.
For example, if someone scores 128 on an IQ test with a ceiling of 130 (+2SD), another 129, and another scores the max of 130, then the expected scores are 128/129/136, and the expected differences are not 1/1/1 but 1/1/7. (You can calculate the truncated normal expectation using
truncNormMean(2)in my dog cloning page).]
History · Design · Craftsmanship & Quality · How To Buy A Birkin · Demand & Exclusivity · The Secondhand Market · Clientele · Why the Birkin Is A Safe Investment · Investment Factors · Investment Pricing Factors · Comparisons with Other Investments · Fake vs. Real · How the Birkin Remains Dominant · The Media · The Defaced Birkin · Conclusion
Birkin bags are carefully handcrafted. The creation process for each bag can take over 18 hours. That number can double if working on a Birkin accessorized with diamonds. The artisans who craft these bags are carefully screened and require years of high quality experience even before being considered for the job. “Hermès has a reputation of hiring mostly artisans who have graduated from the École Grégoire Ferrandi; a school that specializes in working with luxurious leathers.” It also typically takes about 2 years to train an Hermès craftsman, with each one supervised by an existing craftsman.
Preparing the leather is the first step towards crafting the bag. The leather is examined for any defects an animal skin may have mosquito bites or wounds that must be repaired before the skin’s tanning. Leathers are obtained from different tanners in France, resulting in various smells and textures.
The stitching of the bag is also very precise. The bag is held together using wooden clamp, while the artisan applies each individual stitch on the bag. The linen that is used during the stitching process is waterproof and has a beeswax coating for rot prevention. Most Birkin bags are created with same color threads, but some rare bags have white threads even if the bag is not white. “More than 90% of the bag is hand stitched because it allows more freedom to shape the bag and makes it more resilient.” That’s when the hardware process begins. Unlike other bags, the hardware is attached using the unique Hermès process called “pearling” [unrelated to knitting] rather than by using screws. Artisans put a “small nail through a corner hole on the back of the clasp, the leather and the front clasp, take an awl with a concave tip and tap the bit of nail with a hammer gently in a circle until it is round like a tiny pearl.” This process ensures that the pearls will hold the two pieces of metal together forever. The bag is then turned right side out and ironed into shape.
…[cf. Lewis 2014] As secondhand market sales have grown, interest from first time buyers has also increased. This shows the Birkin bag is an important sales channel for an expanding global luxury product market. Such growth has propelled the Birkin to near legendary status in a very demanding market. According to Bag Hunter, “Birkin bags have climbed in value by 500% over the past 35 years, and an increase expected to double over the next 10 years.”
…Simply stated, it appears that the bag’s success hinges on this prestigious perception. A Birkin, terribly difficult to get is therefore highly coveted. In our global economy, that’s all the brand needs to pack the infinite waiting list. It is fashion’s version of Darwinism. We always want what we can’t have, so we will do whatever we can to get it. For instance, Victoria Beckham, the posh clothing designer, and wife of David Beckham reportedly owns about 100 Birkins, collectively valued at $2.4$2.02016 million. It includes a pink ostrich leather Birkin worth $182,271.2$150,000.02016. Despite the fact that she has introduced her own line of handbags, she’s been spotted by the paparazzi wearing a Birkin bag. Kris Jenner also has a massive Birkin collection that she flaunts via social media and the willing participation of paparazzi. Her collection includes an Electric Blue 35cm which is supposedly worth $23,087.7$19,000.02016. Actress Katie Holmes has gained attention for a bold red Birkin, while Julianne Moore has been seen wearing a hunter green 40cm with gold hardware. Julia Roberts and Eva Longoria all have even been seen with the bag. Even B-listed personalities such as reality star, Nicole Richie, with a black Birkin workout bag, is famously noted as frequently asking the paparazzi, “Did you get my bag?”. The Birkin has looked extra special on the arms of models, Alessandra Ambrosio and Kate Moss. Singers such as Jennifer Lopez and Courtney Love ironically show off their Birkins, and even world leaders such as Princess Mary of Denmark, with her black crocodile Birkin worth $54,073.8$44,500.02016, is aware of its meaning and status.
[see also the market for fake Birkins.]
- People perceived as creepy are more likely to be male than female.
- Females are more likely than males to perceive sexual threat from a creepy person.
- Unpredictability is an important component of creepiness.
- Some occupations and hobbies are more strongly linked with creepiness than others.
Surprisingly, until now there has never been an empirical study of “creepiness.” An international sample of 1341 individuals responded to an online survey. Males were perceived as being more likely to be creepy than females, and females were more likely to associate sexual threat with creepiness. Unusual nonverbal behavior and characteristics associated with unpredictability were also predictors of creepiness, as were some occupations and hobbies. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that being “creeped out” is an evolved adaptive emotional response to ambiguity about the presence of threat that enables us to maintain vigilance during times of uncertainty.
…3.4. Creepiness of hobbies: Just for fun, we asked our participants to list 2 hobbies that they thought of as creepy. Easily, the most frequently mentioned creepy hobbies involved collecting things (listed by 341 of our participants). Collecting dolls, insects, reptiles, or body parts such as teeth, bones, or fingernails was considered especially creepy. The second most frequently mentioned creepy hobby (listed by 108 participants) involved some variation of “watching.” Watching, following, or taking pictures of people (especially children) was thought to be creepy by many of our participants, and bird watchers were considered creepy by many as well. A fascination with pornography or exotic sexual activity and taxidermy were also frequently mentioned.
…An examination of Table 2 reveals that the following elements were thought to be very likely to be found in a creepy person: The appearance and nonverbal behavior items in the composite variable (Appearance/NVB), being of the opposite sex (probably due to the predominantly female sample in our study), being extremely thin, not looking the interaction partner in the eye, asking to take a picture of the interaction partner, watching people before interacting with them, asking about details of one’s personal life, having a mental illness, talking about his/her own personal life, displaying too much or too little emotion, being older, and steering the conversation toward sex.
Table 2: One sample t-test results for ratings of probable characteristics of a hypothetical. Creepy person interacting with friend of participant. [Note: All degrees of freedom (df) = 1340. Ratings are on a “1” (very unlikely that creepy person displayed this characteristic/behavior) to “5”(very likely that creepy person displayed this characteristic/behavior) scale.] Variable/Questionnaire item Mean (SD) t-value p-value Watched friend before interacting 4.55 (0.67) 84.66 0.0001 Touched friend frequently 4.24 (0.92) 49.55 0.0001 Steered conversation toward sex 4.16 (0.96) 43.89 0.0001 Asked to take picture of friend 4.11 (1.03) 39.55 0.0001 Asked for personal details of friend’s family 4.09 (0.94) 42.70 0.0001 Opposite sex of friend 4.01 (1.09) 33.99 0.0001 Greasy Hair 3.90 (0.91) 36.43 0.0001 Appearance/NVB (Composite) 3.87 (0.54) 59.69 0.0001 Never looked friend in the eye 3.74 (1.23) 22.20 0.0001 substantially older than friend 3.72 (1.03) 25.73 0.0001 Showed little emotional expression 3.62 (1.07) 21.46 0.0001 Had mental illness 3.45 (1.06) 15.57 0.0001 Talked a lot about personal life 3.41 (1.15) 13.03 0.0001 Extremely thin 3.18 (0.90) 7.45 0.0001 Displayed a lot of emotion 3.15 (1.12) 5.04 0.0001 Tall 3.08 (0.91) 3.02 0.0003 Dressed too casually for situation 2.89 (1.04) 3.71 0.0001 Had facial hair 2.89 (0.97) 4.29 0.0001 Smiled a lot 2.82 (1.07) 6.26 0.0001 Nodded frequently 2.82 (0.98) 6.61 0.0001 Dressed too formally for situation 2.64 (1.13) 11.73 0.0001 Obese 2.63 (0.93) 14.45 0.0001 Crossed arms 2.61 (0.97) 14.65 0.0001 Wore revealing clothing 2.57 (0.96) 16.65 0.0001 Frequently played with hair 2.57 (0.96) 16.49 0.0001 Muscular 2.41 (0.93) 23.18 0.0001 Same sex as friend 2.25 (0.91) 30.35 0.0001 Fashionably Dressed 1.92 (0.92) 43.19 0.0001 Talked a lot about clothes 1.91 (0.91) 44.13 0.0001 Was a child 1.67 (0.89) 54.53 0.0001
[Keywords: creepiness, nonverbal behavior, emotion, person perception, threat perception, evolutionary psychology]
“The Evolutionary Genetics of Personality Revisited”, (2016-02; ; ; similar):
Evolutionary forces that maintain genetic variance in traits can be inferred from their genetic architecture and fitness correlates.—A substantial amount of new data on the genomics and reproductive success associated with personality traits and intelligence has recently become available.—Intelligence differences seem to have been selected for robustness against mutations.—Human tendencies to select, create and adapt to environments might support the maintenance of personality traits through balancing selection.
Like all human individual differences, personality traits and intelligence are substantially heritable. From an evolutionary perspective, this poses the question what evolutionary forces maintain their genetic variation. Information about the genetic architecture and associations with evolutionary fitness permit inferences about these evolutionary forces. As our understanding of the genomics of personality and its associations with reproductive success have grown considerably in recent years, it is time to revisit this question. While mutations clearly affect the very low end of the intelligence continuum, individual differences in the normal intelligence range seem to be surprisingly robust against mutations, suggesting that they might have been canalized to withstand such perturbations. Most personality traits, by contrast, seem to be neither neutral to selection nor under consistent directional or stabilizing selection. Instead evidence is in line with balancing selection acting on personality traits, probably supported by human tendencies to seek out, construct and adapt to fitting environments.
“Managing an Iconic Old Luxury Brand in a New Luxury Economy: Hermès Handbags in the US Market”, Lewis & Haas 2014
2014-lewis.pdf: “Managing an iconic old luxury brand in a new luxury economy: Hermès handbags in the US market”, (2014-03; ; ; similar):
The Hermès brand is synonymous with a wealthy global elite clientele and its products have maintained an enduring heritage of craftsmanship that has distinguished it among competing luxury brands in the global market. Hermès has remained a family business for generations and has successfully avoided recent acquisition attempts by luxury group LVMH.
Almost half of the luxury firm’s revenue ($2.01$1.502012B in 2012) is derived from the sale of its leather goods and saddlery, which includes its handbags. A large contributor to sales is global demand for one of its leather accessories, the Birkin bag, ranging in price from $12,979.0$10,000.02014 to $324,476.1$250,000.02014.
Increased demand for the bag in the United States since 2002 resulted in an extensive customer waitlist lasting from months to a few years. Hermès retired the famed waitlist (sometimes called the ‘dream list’) in the United States in 2010, and while the waitlist has been removed, demand for the Birkin bag has not diminished and making the bag available to luxury consumers requires extensive, careful distribution management.
In addition to inventory constraints related to demand for the Birkin bag in the United States, Hermès must also manage a range of other factors in the US market. These factors include competition with ‘affordable’ luxury brands like Coach, monitoring of unsolicited brand endorsers as well as counterfeit goods and resellers.
This article examines some of the allocation practices used to carefully manage the Hermès brand in the US market.
Why do people purchase objects that were once owned by celebrities, such as film stars or politicians, and also by despised individuals, such as serial killers and notorious dictators?
The present studies examine 3 potential explanations: mere associations, market demands, and contagion (the belief that these objects contain some remnants of their previous owners).
Results: indicate that while market demands do play a role, contagion appears to be the critical factor affecting the valuation of celebrity possessions. Manipulating the degree of physical contact that a celebrity has with an object dramatically influences consumers’ willingness to purchase it, and individual differences in sensitivity to contagion moderate this effect. Additionally, the valuation of celebrity possessions is principally explained by measures of contagion, and subliminally activating the concept of contagion changes consumers’ willingness to purchase celebrity objects.
Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.
Genetic influences on personality differences are ubiquitous, but their nature is not well understood. A theoretical framework might help, and can be provided by evolutionary genetics.
We assess three evolutionary genetic mechanisms that could explain genetic variance in personality differences: selective neutrality, mutation-selection balance, and balancing selection. Based on evolutionary genetic theory and empirical results from behaviour genetics and personality psychology, we conclude that selective neutrality is largely irrelevant, that mutation-selection balance seems best at explaining genetic variance in intelligence, and that balancing selection by environmental heterogeneity seems best at explaining genetic variance in personality traits. We propose a general model of heritable personality differences that conceptualises intelligence as fitness components and personality traits as individual reaction norms of genotypes across environments, with different fitness consequences in different environmental niches. We also discuss the place of mental health in the model.
This evolutionary genetic framework highlights the role of gene-environment interactions in the study of personality, yields new insight into the person-situation-debate and the structure of personality, and has practical implications for both quantitative and molecular genetic studies of personality.
[Keywords: evolutionary psychology, personality differences, behaviour genetics, intelligence, personality traits, gene-environment interactions, mutation load, mutation-selection balance, mutational cross-section, epistasis, frequency-dependent selection]
1988-veyne.pdf: “Conduct Without Belief and Works of Art Without Viewers”, Paul Veyne, Jeanne Ferguson (1988-01-01; ; )