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How adoption speed affects the abandonment of cultural tastes

Interesting article by Jonah Berger and Gael Le Mens:

Products, styles, and social movements often catch on and become popular, but little is known about why such identity-relevant cultural tastes and practices die out. We demonstrate that the velocity of adoption may affect abandonment: Analysis of over 100 years of data on first-name adoption in both France and the United States illustrates that cultural tastes that have been adopted quickly die faster (i.e., are less likely to persist). Mirroring this aggregate pattern, at the individual level, expecting parents are more hesitant to adopt names that recently experienced sharper increases in adoption. Further analysis indicate that these effects are driven by concerns about symbolic value: Fads are perceived negatively, so people avoid identity-relevant items with sharply increasing popularity because they believe that they will be short lived. Ancillary analyses also indicate that, in contrast to conventional wisdom, identity-relevant cultural products that are adopted quickly tend to be less successful overall (i.e., reduced cumulative adoption). These results suggest a potential alternate way to explain diffusion patterns that are traditionally seen as driven by saturation of a pool of potential adopters. They also shed light on one factor that may lead cultural tastes to die out.

This relates to one of my pet ideas about names (which is not to say, one of my ideas about pet names).


  1. Steve Sailer says:

    My impression is that Americans, in general, are reasonably cautious about baby names. They aren’t notably driven by celebrities. For example, “Dylan” took about two decades after Bob Dylan hit the charts to become a popular first name. The celebrity first and middle name combo (e.g., Grover Cleveland Alexander) has largely died out.