Poster: Trickle-Round Signals: When Low Status Is Mixed with High

Silvia Bellezza, Columbia University

Poster Session Presentation

While trickle-down theories suggest that fashion starts with the elites and moves downward, some high-end restaurants serve lowbrow food like potato chips or macaroni and cheese, and some fashion trends are poached from blue-collar workers before they become popular. When and why do high-status individuals adopt items associated with traditionally low-status groups? We use a signaling perspective to explain this phenomenon, demonstrating that highs adopt some items associated with low-status groups to distinguish themselves from middle-status individuals. Emulating low-status groups is risky and costly for middles, and, as a result, adopting such items grants distinction to the elites. Further, the presence of multiple signaling dimensions facilitates this effect, allowing highs to mix-and-match items in a way that differentiates them from lows. These findings deepen our understanding of signaling dynamics, support a trickle-round theory of fashion, and shed light on alternative status symbols.

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Spring 2019 Trustees Meeting: Right Channel, Right Content, Right Time

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