••• consumer psychology

I’ll have what she’s having

We conform with our peers on numbers-based aspects of food orders but not quality-based aspects, such as flavor, in order to prevent social discomfort, according to research by Kelly Haws, Vanderbilt professor of marketing at the Owen Graduate School of Management.

Haws and her colleagues conducted an experiment to explore the phenomenon of selective peer pressure on our food choices, aiming to tackle questions about how we eat when we’re with others and how our choices are impacted by what others do.

The research found that consumers are more likely to adjust their own choices to match others’ if the options can be ranked. For example, single-scoop and double-scoop ice creams differ in ice cream quantity, so they can be ranked. These qualities are called ordinal attributes; other examples include quantitative values like price or calorie count. However, consumers will less often match others’ choices on attributes that cannot be ranked, such as flavor. These qualities are called nominal attributes.

According to the study, the reason that a consumer might choose to match their peers on ordinal attributes is not necessarily because a certain choice is better but rather to minimize social discomfort, such as to avoid seeming too indulgent by ordering too much ice cream or not indulgent enough if the mood is more celebratory. 

••• employee research

Are hot desks a hot mess?

The concept of “hot-desking” – a kind of office design in which workers are not assigned to a regular cubicle or desk but rather are encouraged to sit in different locations each day at work – isn’t super popular. And, it might not be a good idea for employers.

Why? Employees experience it as a bit abnormal, says Trevor Foulk, assistant professor of management and organization at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, and research has shown that employees who consider their work settings to be abnormal are more likely to view their organizations as less trustworthy. “It makes you start to think, ‘Well, what other weird stuff is this organization doing that maybe I can’t see?’” Foulk says. And that can lead employees to become less engaged, unwilling to go the extra mile at work.

For teams that consist primarily of Millennials, hot-desking might not feel so out of the norm and might not be quick to provoke those pangs of abnormality leading to a sense of untrustworthiness. “This is how Millennials went to college. They had a laptop or a tablet and they just sat wherever and worked,” Foulk says. “The idea that there would just be some beanbags and a foosball table and you would just kind of sit and work, that probably wouldn’t seem abnormal to them. But of course, it also really depends on the nature of the work, as well.”