Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior
Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller's new book Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior (Viking, New York, 384 pages) has stirred a contoversy that we have already blogged about here. Dylan Evans has just reviewed the book in The Guardian. From his review:
"Miller argues that marketers still use simplistic models of human nature that remain uninformed by the past 20 years of research by evolutionary psychologists and behavioural ecologists. As a result, they "still believe that premium products are bought to display wealth, status, and taste, and they miss the deeper mental traits that people are actually wired to display – traits such as kindness, intelligence, and creativity". This, Miller claims, limits their success rate."
"But Miller does not preach; he also thinks evolutionary psychologists could learn a thing or two from marketers. Through their experience of selling real products, marketers develop an intuitive understanding of consumer behaviour that could help evolutionary psychologists refine their theories of evolved preferences and sexual signalling. If this dialogue develops as Miller hopes it will, a rich seam of new research might be opened up."
"His newfound enthusiasm for marketing does not mean he has become an uncritical apologist for late capitalism. Alongside the punchy humour runs a darker stream of ideas that draws on the work of the Norwegian-American sociologist and economist Thorstein Veblen, which is somewhat at odds with Miller's winking, postmodern nonchalance. At times Miller gives the impression that, like Marx, he thinks many consumer products are designed to satisfy "false needs". His imaginary dialogue between a 21st-century consumer and a couple of Cro-Magnons from prehistoric France, while hilariously funny, betrays the very nostalgia for an idealised paradise of primitive small-group living that he rightly criticises only a few pages later."
There is also an online interview of Geoffrey Miller on the book here