Optimal distinctiveness theory (ODT) and self-categorization theory hold that association with moderately distinctive, rather than general or unique, social categories should be more central to self-conception. Study 1 analyzes objective and self-report behavioural indicators from a representative sample of 2,624 18-21 year olds. Consistent with ODT, respondents preferring styles of music with intermediate levels, rather than unique or general levels, of objective popularity reported investing more resources in, and stronger behavioural commitment to, their music identity. Study 2, using 49 students from the same age cohort, confirmed that perceived popularity was related to objective popularity independent of familiarity with each style. In line with ODT, the distinctiveness of young people's musical affiliations appears to contribute to their social identity
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