How to be cool

Applying an empirical investigation to discover the nature of coolness, three separate studies were devised to first identify through a survey qualities that were cool, then ask people to rank those qualities in desirability and then to rank their friends on these qualities.  Basing their research on the notion that cool is being attractive and desirable and not unwanted, Ilan Dar-Nimrod, who works at the University of Rochester Medical Center and his friend, Ian Hansen of York College came to their scientific conclusions.

Take Steve Buscemi for instance, With his unusual looks and whining voice, Buscemi is not the quintessential Hollywood star however, he has starred in some iconic and arguably ‘cool’ roles such as Mr Pink in ‘Reservoir Dogs’ and Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson in HBO’s ‘Boardwalk Empire’ Deciding to have a go at settling the debate of whether Buscemi is cool or not, the pair came up with three separate studies which asked 353 college students at the University of British Columbia to first submit words they thought described cool.

Then secondly, the students deemed these qualities as how desirable they were and then judged their friends.’We wanted to tease apart coolness and social desirability, and they discovered that ‘There is a lot of overlap between social desirability and coolness.’  Indeed, the majority of responses that the two psychologists received as words to describe cool focused primarily on appearance. They saw cool being equated as ‘hot’, ‘handsome’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘sexy’, revealing an overwhelming theme of simple physical looks, The research was designed to see what goes into coolness  and it was found that the dominant perception of coolness  revolves around social desirability and generic semi-gentrified traits.

Aside from good looks, the researchers also expected to find rebelliousness to be a cool trait, reminiscent of James Dean, What they discovered instead was that the students they used in their study thought that friendliness constitutes cool. In fact, on top of being good looking and friendly, if you are a high achiever in life then you are moving into ice-cold territory. As well as being generally successful and blessed in life, volunteering to help within society is seen as cool too. Also listed as desirable traits that are equated with coolness are trendiness, individualism, confidence and having a sense of humour

Although it seems that coolness is more straight-laced than first thought, There is also a different facet to coolness, which is the dark, historical coolness, revolving around counterculture, risky behaviour,  and the James Dean-style, smoking, moody, ‘contrarian cool’ which still exists.

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