Listening to Apple fanboys face off against Microsofties is a little like listening to the Crips take on the Bloods. Both sides claim rational superiority in a tone imbued with the severest of emotions.
Today, I stumbled upon (literally) a piece of research that seemed to make sense of it all.
Our brains, according to researchers from the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University, are neurologically desperate to conform. Apparently, when we see our views differ from those of our peers and friends, our brain sets off an alarm, one that begs us to reconsider.
Not conforming brings with it little neural reward. Which made me think about the process by which people commit themselves to Apple or PC. Do people conform, sometimes against their better judgment, to the machines they see being championed by those around them?
Most creative people I know, for example, would rather eat poached maggots than use a PC. It was certainly ingrained in my head from the moment the machines first appeared. And I have always used and, frankly, enjoyed Macs. But have I been fooling myself? I decided to delve into the Erasmus research a little deeper.
The researchers made their respondents look at faces and rate them. They were then told the average scores. After a short coffee break, they were asked to rate the faces again and, to the great satisfaction of the researchers, knowledge of the peer averages created an immediate reassessment in favor of the group averages.
And those who happened to know each other before the research were extreme GroupThinkers. According to the Erasmus website: "Students at EBL, who were previously acquainted with each other and who arrived for participation in the study together in groups of eight, exhibited the strongest inclinations to be swayed by the feedback of their group peers."
So here's a question: how many of you out there who feel passionately in favor of either Mac or PC can trace your commitment to some kind of unconscious, perhaps subconscious, group influence?
Can you be honest? Please try. I know it's not easy. But this is all in the name of scientific truth. And, um, peer love.
You see, the researchers cited examples such as this: "This adaptive behavior is driven by a very basic and automatic process. This fundamental process explains why, for example, re-use of bath towels by a hotel guest increases substantially, if they find a notice in their room saying, '75% of the guests in this room re-use their bath towels.' Apparently, if you make the social norm explicit, this causes a strong brain impulse to change behavior accordingly."
So how many of you have fallen victim to a fundamental neurological process when committing yourselves to a brand and its philosophy?
There is one other thing I'd like to point out about this study, which the University claims is a 'worldwide first.'
All the study subjects were women. Don't ask me why. But it makes no difference, as I'm sure all of you will agree.