May 18, 2009

Tierney on Miller's "Spent"

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

24 comments:

testing99 said...

If anything, status competition and signaling through expensive consumer goods was more important in the very long, constant, and tiresome competition for women among men, and for status among women themselves.

Women gain and bond through status object acquistion, guys not so much. Guys instead gain status through toughness displays, various skill endeavors, and most important of all, what kind of gal they're with.

For women what kind of guy they're with is part of it, but not status objects were just as important.

With a down economy, perhaps for decades, this might all be academic. Since most will hardly afford expensive watches, Macbooks, etc.

rightsaidfred said...

Interesting. Especially this part:

our desire to impress strangers a quirky evolutionary byproduct of a smaller social world.

“We evolved as social primates who hardly ever encountered strangers in prehistory,” Dr. Miller says. “So we instinctively treat all strangers as if they’re potential mates or friends or enemies.
..

I'm wondering about the flip side of this: the effort to display one's failure, e.g. public intoxication, homeless on main street, aggressive panhandling, Nancy Pelosi.

Maybe it is a signal for the hunter-gatherer group to abandon them in the woods.

agnostic said...

I just put up a post on my blog about whether or not his hunch is right -- i.e., that obsessing over brands is about signaling how an individual differs from other individuals (in intelligence, personality, etc.).

The simpler answer -- the one that doesn't make it look like everyone's completely wasting their time -- is that branding serves to mark membership in ethnic groups, broadly construed.

We don't buy Starbucks to tell others about our personality and lifestyle, but to display a group membership badge.

Anonymous said...

And some people buy Starbucks because it's the least expensive cup of coffee in town and you can get a refill for 50 cents!

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar...

Brutus

Chris Anderson said...

"men were more willing to splurge on designer sunglasses, expensive watches and European vacations"

Check, check and check. Oh my. I'm a walking cliche.

Sent from my iPhone

Anonymous said...

To me all the labels and stuff are like a flashing light that announces insecurity. Those of us who live in nice neighborhoods, in large paid-for houses, drive modest paid-for cars and see our neighbors mortgaged and indebted up to their eyeballs driving much nicer cars always wonder why it is worth it to pay all that interest for the sake of appearances. I mean they could live in the next neighborhood over, their kids would be in the same school and they could save their money so in case they had a problem, they wouldn't lose it all.

I don't understand buying status items on credit to look like you are so smart. It's really dumb, actually.

William B Swift said...

Robin Hansen is blogging on this book too, at Overcoming Bias

www.overcomingbias.com/

Andrea said...

I don't know about other people, but when I buy a vente vanilla latte at Starbucks it's because I wanted a vente vanilla latte. Anyway, isn't the ubiquity of Starbuckses all over the country kind of an indicator against their being some sort of unique, special brand? Panera, on the other hand, you walk in there, people know you're special. (j/k)

Anonymous said...

---We don't buy Starbucks to tell others about our personality and lifestyle, but to display a group membership badge.---


I don't buy it because it is a fucking rip-off and the lines in their locations are long. But that's just me.

Harry Baldwin said...

Article states:
"Women became more willing to do volunteer work and perform other acts of conspicuous charity — a signal of high conscientiousness and agreeableness, like demonstrating your concern for third world farmers by spending extra for Starbucks’s “fair trade” coffee."

I find these demonstrations of "awareness" very annoying. I was in attendance when my wife demonstrated an art project to a group of art teachers (all women) at a convention. When she mentioned using dried beans as a material, one of the teachers looked pained and said, "I won't use food items in art projects. I consider it immoral when you think of all the hunger in the world. I want to promote that kind of awareness among my second-graders." And then she sat back with a pinched smile and sort of shrugged; the weight of the world on her shoulders, and all that.

I thought, wow, if this were a first date, I would be making tracks for the nearest exit. What a PITA!

Anonymous said...

I think Agnostic has nailed it when he says:

We don't buy Starbucks to tell others about our personality and lifestyle, but to display a group membership badge.

To some extent Religion serves a similar function ...

Some people have discovered how to exploit some of the machinery in our heads.

Anonymous said...

Hell Freezes Over.

Hmmm, I thought that by becoming an Illegal Immigrant, that person has committed a crime? Was I wrong?

Anonymous said...

"I'm wondering about the flip side of this: the effort to display one's failure, e.g. public intoxication, homeless on main street, aggressive panhandling, Nancy Pelosi."

Nancy Pelosi! HAHAHAHAHA. Please, somebody, take her, take her.

Think about this--the three most powerful representatives of the largest, most screwed up state in the Union come not only from that screwed up state, but from that screwed up city (aside from its beauty)...San Francisco.

Now, we have to worry about that city's quirky mayor running for Governor of our totally shot state.

Apologies for my diversions, but this Californian is beside herself with our ineptitude and corruption.

clem said...

I just put up a post on my blog about whether or not his hunch is right....I was just going to put up a link to that, here. It's a damned fine post, including reference to my favorite social-psych study, Robbers Cave:

Why logos, and why are teenagers more brand-obsessed than adults?

josh said...

"the lines in their locations are long."

That's why nobody goes to Starbucks anymore.

Anonymous said...

"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar..."


No, what this country needs is a good 5 cent cigar!

greenrivervalleyman said...

But Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of New Mexico, says that even the slickest minds on Madison Avenue are still in the prescientific dark ages...

In a series of experiments, Dr. Miller and other researchers found that people were more likely to expend money and effort on products and activities if they were first primed with photographs of the opposite sex or stories about dating.
Wow, what would adevertising do without the insights of evolutionary psychology?

Seriously, Steve, evolutionary psychology and sociology have reached the point where they could seriously be considered anti-sciences.

Anonymous said...

I don't see why in-group/out-group and attribute signaling would be incompatible. Groups tend to have certain attributes, and that's a big part of their appeal. If it were just Group A/Group B, it wouldn't have much appeal unless there was a perception among signalers that one of these groups possessed desirable attributes.

The funny thing is, to connect the dots would violate the rules of PC - to acknowledge that certain groups are, or are at least perceived to be, DIFFERENT from other groups. I.E. to suggest that status-gaming SWPLs think that people who listen to indie rock are smarter than people who listen to hip-hop, or that NAMs think that people who listen to hip-hop are more "fun" than trendy rock fans.

David said...

agnostic said

"branding serves to mark membership in ethnic groups, broadly construed. We don't buy Starbucks to tell others about our personality and lifestyle, but to display a group membership badge."

Well, plenty of blacks drive Lexuses and go to Starbucks. In fact, all the Lexuses I've seen on the road in the past 10 years were driven by blacks.

Anon. said

"what this country needs is a good 5 cent cigar!"

What this country needs is a good 5 cent nickel.

Peter said...

We've got to the point where going to Starbucks says absolutely nothing about who you are. It's NOT going to Starbucks that is the fashion statement. Although a confusing one - in some circles it means you're an anti-corporate leftist who won't drink The Man's coffee, in others (this blog for example) it appears to mean you're an "anti-elitist" Republican. And then there are the poor people who just don't like the coffee and aren't trying to make any statement at all...

Anonymous said...

greenrivervalleyman,

that broad at the godaddy spot looks like a venezuelan shemale. that's a bizarre demographic they're going after.

lennonjon said...

"I don't understand buying status items on credit to look like you are so smart. It's really dumb, actually."

This is absolutely true, but such use of credit serves as a "false-fitness signal". It is a way to fake one's fitness (such as wearing makeup, getting boob jobs, using steroids). We all have the psychological and biological infrastructure to pay attention to these signals. We also have the psychological mechanisms to lead us to signal to others that we have what they want, so that they should come get some (of our genes). Sometimes however, we fake that fitness in order to get the best possible mates we can.

none of the above said...

David,

If common stereotypes (correct or not) assume that people who look like you are poor, or criminal, or dumb, or whatever, then it pays for you to signal that you're different--you drive a Lexus, you wear nice professional clothes, you talk in a professional way, etc.

I gather that salesmen use this to their advantage. Blacks and younger people tend to feel a bit defensive about whether strangers will think they can afford a big/nice car or whatever, and this makes it easier for the salesmen to get a higher price from them.

The irony here is that the study about this, quoted by Gladwell and discussed at length by Steve, tends to be used to talk about subconscious discrimination. But a much better use would be to encourage blacks to use Edmunds or no-haggle internet pricing or one of those services where they find you cars that meet your specifications and negotiate for you. This wouldn't score any points or solve any great social problems, other than maybe getting a lot of blacks into a sensible car for much less money.

A natural suspicion is that something similar was at work with subprime mortgages. If you go to the realtor expecting to be thought too poor to buy a house, you'll probably be upsold into something more expensive that what you need. (The same applies to mortgage brokers.) And successful real estate agents are *very* skillful salesmen.

Evan McLaren said...

Evolution is good at getting us to avoid death, desperation and celibacy, but it’s not that good at getting us to feel happy.There's something in that remark.