Is owning a Toyota Prius in your genes?
A study on twins in the Journal of Consumer Research found that various consumer preferences are strongly heritable. These included likings for products as disparate as science fiction movies and hybrid cars.
The authors, Itamar Simonson of Stanford University and Aner Sela of the University of Florida, examined “a wide range of consumer judgment and decision-making phenomena”. They found, they said, that “many – though not all of them – are in fact heritable or influenced by genetic factors.”
A strong indicator of whether a behaviour is genetically inherited is whether identical twins are more likely to share it than fraternal (non-identical) twins. Using that method, Simonson and Sela found that identical twins were more likely to share tendencies including: a tendency to play safe instead of gambling; to choose moderation and compromise over extremes; or to buy more useful but unexciting consumer products like batteries over indulgent ones like chocolate.
Further, a liking for several specific products was found to be genetically linked, including mustard, sci-fi, jazz music, chocolate and eco-friendly hybrid cars.
Other tendencies, including a fondness for ketchup or tattooing, or preferences for larger or smaller products, were not heritable.
The authors say the study will shine more light on the genetic basis of human personalities, and why “some people may be born with a tendency to ‘be in the mainstream’ whereas others tend to ‘live on the edge,” as they put it.