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James Dean Scientific research: What is cool all about?

It sounds rather like a commercial study, but researchers at the Medical Center of Rochester University investigated how ‘cool’ evolved through time. Would we still consider Miles Davis or James Dean to be cool? Researcher Dan Nimrod clearly says no: “James Dean is no longer the epitome of cool. The much darker version of what coolness is still there, but it is not the main focus. The main thing is: Do I like this person? Is this person nice to people, attractive, confident and successful? That’s cool today, at least among young mainstream individuals.”

Three surveys among almost 1.000 respondents make the researcher conclude: “We have a kind of schizophrenic coolness concept in our mind. Almost any one of us will be cool in some people’s eyes, which suggests the idiosyncratic way coolness is evaluated. But some will be judged as cool in many people’s eyes, which suggests there is a core valuation to coolness, and today that does not seem to be the historical nature of cool. We suggest there is some transition from the countercultural cool to a generic version of ‘it’s good and I like it’. But this transition is by no way completed.”

Should you wonder why a medical institution is researching what people (and youth) think is cool: “Coolness may have some relevance to health behaviors. Smoking or drug use, for example, could be connected with a view of coolness that includes rebelliousness or a countercultural stance. This can inform future health research on behaviors. Is coolness related to people’s choice of unhealthy behaviors, such as body modifications, unprotected sex or even eating behaviors?”

More detailed information and conclusions about the study are available online.

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