The Hidden Instincts Behind Everything We Buy by Geoffrey Miller (Book Review)

Have you ever noticed that your spending habits have a way outwitting you? Despite efforts to keep expenditures in check, at one point, one tends to lose control over how they spend their money.

Am not particularly proud of how I at times buy stuff, then later feel I could have made better choices. This is the situation that led me to buy this book, with the hope of understanding why I make some of the buying choices I tend to make.

If you would like to be more efficient against runaway consumerism, please make an effort and get to read this book. Below is a summary of the lessons I learned. The summary is however not enough. You will need the examples provided by the author to better understand your consumption behavior. The author is quite vivid and humorous with the examples, with arguments being built in such a manner as to critique the ideas of the author while also refining your opinions over the psychology behind consumerism.

The key message I picked from the book is that our consumption patterns aren’t entirely self-driven.

  • We have an evolutionary desire to display our traits to others, which helps with attracting quality mates and gaining social status, an argument that the author terms as costly signaling (it cost so much to display certain signals that only the strong and healthy in terms of these traits can afford to display them). We get to display some of our traits through the goods we consume, and we recognize or get recognized by others through these traits.
  • We also have narcissistic spending, a form of expenditure drawing from our desire to satisfy certain desires we hold
  • What we consume thus not only bears utilitarian value but also a form of signaling made through the product
  • Our consumption patterns are also modified by the communities around us, marketing efforts and even government through policies and incentives such as tax laws.

Given that some products are costly and yet people desire to display traits through these products, our markets have counterfeits. There are benefits to having certain traits and displaying them. People that desire these benefits and yet lack the display traits use counterfeit goods and behaviors. It’s like innovation in an attempt to get what you want and it helps with fraud.

How do you use consumerism to display intelligence, openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, stability and extraversion? Could you be a victim of runaway consumerism? How can you better your consumer patterns? To get enlightened on these, please grab a copy of Spent: The Hidden Instincts Behind Everything We Buy by Geoffrey Miller

Lead your life to reach your goals; live deliberately. Cheers!

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