Marketing Papers

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



Divergence is a fact of social life; people select different tastes to distinguish themselves from others and they abandon tastes when others adopt them. But while we know a great deal about conformity, it predicts convergence, and thus is less equipped to explain why people diverge. We suggest people diverge to maintain clear signals of identity. Our approach emphasizes that the meaning of signals is set at a social rather than individual level. Tastes gain signal value through association with groups or types or individuals, but become diluted when members of more than one type hold them. Thus different types of people will diverge in the tastes they select, and they will abandon tastes they previously liked when they are adopted by members of other social types.


This is an unpublished manuscript.


taste perception, sentinel value, conformity



Date Posted: 15 June 2018