How What It Means To Be Cool Has Changed

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.

  • rus Archer

    james dean never was the epitome of cool
    that was miles davis

  • Hadrian999

    if you think about being cool, you aren’t cool at all…..just a poser 

  • Zenc

    Well, even though I think Dar-Nimrod has a cool name, I’d like to point out that the first big flaw in this study is that he asked Canadians about who is cool.

    • Jin The Ninja

      lol. ;/

    • Bipolar

       It is possible that the study needed to be done somewhere that the people are intelligent enough to complete a extensive survey.

      • Zenc

        I suppose that would rule out all of North America then…

        • Ryan_miku

          I was under the impression that there would be a lot of people in the USA that think that Snooki and The Situation are the pinnacle of cool right now. But upon further thought into the subject you are correct to say North America.

  • Chaorder Gradient

    I was uncool before uncool was cool. Now i have to be cool to be uncool to be cool, wait… my brain hurts.

  • Earaches

    Being a Player has finally reached its nadir.

  • Honu

    With the state of things, western civilizations’ foundational ideas being questioned along with the results of the extremes of capitalism, being a rebel seems less cool and more about living with integrity.  Who has time for embodying an image of what is hip when the underlying security of our lives are in flux?

  • withgoddess

    Of course!  Socially attractive traits…isn’t this part of a NWO ideal…or Nazi party ideals if you think of it…Good looking…ooooo blonde hair,  blue eyes anyone.  

  • Alzawahi

    “That’s cool today, at least among young mainstream individuals.”


    pick one

  • Alzawahi

    “That’s cool today, at least among young mainstream individuals.”


    pick one

  • homelessjob

    There’s a difference between “cool” and “popular.”  Cool will always be cool.  Popular is ever changing and evolving.  

  • Wren

    You know while some of the qualities are debatable, we should all strive to be nice and good people. I don’t see a problem with people being nice, being regarded as ‘cool’

  • snori333

    Well there’s your problem right there you used Canadians, what do they know about being rebellious.  No offense neighbors but yall are kinda of boring…

  • discusthrower

    the last definition of “cool” that I remember before this one is that it is supposed to be a kind of naivete, or ingenuousness. 

    IMO cool is successfully negotiating situational pleasure with societal well-being, and setting a positive example while not contributing to any kind of exploitation (kind of difficult to do).  There are some really cool doctors dedicating their lives to the benefit of the pockets of “uncivilized” areas where there is limited infrastructure and services.