The definition of the cool individual has shifted. Decades ago, he or she was a rebel who challenged convention and bourgeois, conformist ideals. Today, it means being friendly, physically attractive, and successful. Via the University of Rochester Medical Center:
Do rebelliousness, emotional control, toughness and thrill-seeking still make up the essence of coolness? Can James Dean and Miles Davis still be considered the models of cool?
Research led by a University of Rochester Medical Center psychologist and published by the Journal of Individual Differences has found the characteristics associated with coolness today are markedly different than those that generated the concept of cool.
“James Dean is no longer the epitome of cool,” Dar-Nimrod said. “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.”
In research that has developed over several years, Dar-Nimrod, currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry, and his colleagues recruited almost 1,000 people in the Vancouver, British Columbia, area, who completed an extensive questionnaire on the attributes, behaviors and individuals they associated with the word cool.
A significant number of participants used adjectives that focused on positive, socially desirable traits, such as friendly, competent, trendy and attractive.