Visual influence and social groups

Blakeley B. Mcshane*, Eric T. Bradlow, Jonah Berger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


New car purchases are among the largest and most expensive purchases consumers ever make. While functional and economic concerns are important, the authors examine whether visual influence also plays a role. Using a hierarchical Bayesian probability model and data on 1.6 million new cars sold over nine years, they examine how visual influence affects purchase volume, focusing on three questions: Are people more likely to buy a new car If others around them have recently done so? Are these effects moderated by visibility, the ease of seeing others' behavior? Do they vary according to the identity (e.g., gender) of prior purchasers and the identity relevance of vehicle type? The authors perform an extensive set of tests to rule out alternatives to visual influence and find that visual effects are (1) present (one additional purchase for approximately every seven prior purchases), (2) larger in areas where others' behavior should be more visible (i.e., more people commute in car-visible ways), (3) stronger for prior purchases by men than by women in male-oriented vehicle types, (4) extant only for cars of similar price tiers, and (5) subject to saturation effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)854-871
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Marketing Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Automobiles
  • Cars
  • Social identity
  • Visual influence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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