The Optimal Distinctiveness Theory

Oliver Burkeman, writing for The Guardian, on the phenomenon of when something gets so much praise, or hype, and then you end up avoiding the praised thing expressly because of how much everyone else seems to like it:

So what’s going on? One explanation is what psychologists call “optimal distinctiveness theory” – the way we’re constantly jockeying to feel exactly the right degree of similarity to and difference from those around us. Nobody wants to be exiled from the in-group to the fringes of society; but nobody wants to be swallowed up by it, either. In toddlerhood and teenagerhood, this manifests as a bloody-minded refusal to do what we’re told, precisely to show we can disobey our parents. Perhaps it never entirely goes away.

I’ve been reading up on the optimal distinctiveness theory on Wikipedia today and it’s almost funny how well it describes interactions I see in our forums on a daily basis.