When a financial advisor consumes the same food as a client, her trustworthiness gets a boost.
Where are we going? To the value of similarity.
Food and Trust
In a series of experiments at the University of Chicago, researchers found that food and trust connect. Just by eating similar candy, individuals seemed willing to give more money to a hypothetical fund manager. Behaving in the same way, a different group increased their cooperation during a simulated negotiation when both sides shared sweet foods or salty snacks. For a third group, when observers nibbled the same candy as a speaker in a non-food ad, they felt better about the product promotion.
Language and Trust
And just like food similarities can enhance trust, so too can language.
When I first met my husband, I thought it was strange that he drank “pop” rather than “soda.” But it made sense because I am from New York (red) and his hometown is Peoria, Illinois (blue):
Near where I currently live in New Jersey (blue), everyone pours maple “sear-up:”
And finally, “pajamas” really divide the US.
With fizzy drinks, maple syrup, and pajamas, how we speak is about much more than our words. When we talk like someone else, we convey a shared similarity that can have an economic payoff.
Our Bottom Line: Signaling Similarity
By eating the same food and speaking the same words, we are signaling similarity. Consequently, we can elevate our sales or the chance of being hired, settle disagreements or find a mate when we create the trust that comes from knowing that we are alike.
My sources and more: For some enjoyable reading, the Wall Street Journal had an interesting summary of the benefits of consuming similar food while Joshua Katz created a mesmerizing series of language visualizations. However, if you want to continue with the academic side, I recommend this paper on food and trust, this paper on the economic payoff from cultural affinity and this one on economics and identity. As a practical and scholarly topic, incidental similarity is fascinating. Please note that we used Dr. Katz’s visualizations in a previous econlife post. Also, this post was slightly edited after it was published.