Polls / September 20, 2010

Can you "catch" good habits from friends?

You can “catch” good habits from friends say 58% of more than 1,500 respondents to the latest eZonomics online poll.

The peer effect (or keeping up with Joneses)
Catching habits does happen, say researchers, with study, spending and working habits amongst the areas of life examined by academics. In technical terms, the idea is known as the “peer effect”. It is explained in the eZonomics article Beware your neighbour, which details how studies show people work harder if their friends do. It says the research suggests this peer effect holds true for a wide range of locations and jobs, including supermarket workers in the United States and fruit pickers in Eastern Europe. Likewise, it says a university student who shares a room with a “high performing” student tends to do better academically themselves. Hollywood movie The Joneses picked up on this idea in its tale of a trend setting “family” of paid marketers moving into a suburban neighbourhood.

Take the good with the bad
Just as good work and study habits can be caught, bad habits are also up for grabs. A post on Decision Science News says our shopping habits are no exception. It details how a study shows shoppers “with big-spending friends tend to spend a lot” – outspending what their demographic would suggest.

I want good friends and good habits
The peer effect seems to have costs (bad habits) and benefits (good habits). Being aware of the tendency to pick up on what friends are doing is a good start to keeping habits under control. Perhaps also consider strategies to offset bad habits – such as setting a budget before a night out with big spending friends.


eZonomics team
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