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Sex, Evolution and Consumer Behaviour

Geoffrey Miller

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Hummer ad: "Need is such a subjective word"

Many products are signal first and material objects second - we buy things to impress others.

Children are born wired up to be cute, grow up, find food, amke friends, avoid pain, find a mate, raise kids. But instead they have to face a bizarre world of frustrating duties and counterintuitive ideas - sit still, learn maths, find a job, move away from friends, drive cars, leave kids in day care. And kids face this with minimal guidance. Parents are away all day making money to buy things to look good. None of this makes sense.

People are self-marketing consumers, feeding each other hype about how healthy, clever and popular they are, through the goods and services they consume.

Female v female competition in apes and monkeys to get best mates. Sim in humans conspicuous consumption with Prada handbags and Manolo Blahnik shoes, things which straight males rarely notice.

Male elephant seals will often starve to death defending their harem and bit of beach. Not that they are willingly choosing that, but simply how evo has shaped them - the slacker males who weren't quite as dedicated,didn't reproduce, so only the genes of the super-dedicated got passed on. The human sitn is not hugely different.

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The process of sexual selection through mate choice can be explained in terms of marketing analogies. Animals seek partners in competitive marketplace. Animal bodies and behaviour evolved largelyas adverts for their genetic fitness. Male humans evolved potent new sales tactics - verbal coutship, rhythmic music, gentle foreplay, prolonged copulation - for seducing sceptical female consumers. Females evolved potent new tactics of relationship marketing to build long-term loyalty among their highest value male customers.

Magazines are published to sell the reader's attention to advertisers.

Almost everything we buy has been shaped by some marketing people thinking hard about what we think will make us happier. Products are systematically conceived, designed, tested and produced based on the preferences of consumers rather than the convenience of the producers. Hence concept that we live in the Age of Marketing.

Martin Luther and John Calvin organised churches to fill the emotional needs of worshipers, as opposed to thefiscal needs of priest. They crafted a new form of Xity based on local languages, simple churches and glorious music. The current 30,000 Xian denominations ar just what you'd expect from efficient market segmentation - letting the customer chooses style of worship he wants.

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Still can't buy true love, respect or fulfilment. We can't buy decent replacements for biological adaptations that go wrong - artificial brains or limbs. Weare actually born with a treasurechest of abilities honed by generations of evolution. Beyond true necessities we actually get only a little added valu from consumer products.

Adverts try to tell you one basic thing - that other people actually notice and care about the products you buy to display. Mostly they don't, and we greatly overestimate how much they actually do. And we underestimate how much attention they pay to our natural traits that are easily discerned in a few moments conversation.

Teenagers make silly dating choices bc they are overinfluenced by physical attractiveness and status among their peers. In contrast, parents have had decades of assessing harder-to-discern traits such as conscientiousness, emotional stability and intelligence.

The bad math behind the middle-age crisis purchase of a Corvette instead of, say, a Chevvy Malibu - $70,000 v $20,000. Buyer can hopefully count on an extra 5 sexual encounters (over the 5 years product life) from the extra $50K he's put into the sports car, ie $10,000 per encounter. Or he could buy the cheaper car, and with the cash he's saved, have one sexual encounter a week (paying a sex worker $200 a time).

Cubic zurconia and silicon carbide (Moisssanite) cannot be distinguished from real diamonds without fornesic exam.

BMW places ads in mass-circulation mags, not to sell cars to the plebs, but to educate the potential status coveters to respect those who drive one.

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