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The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature

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For anyone interested in the biological basis of human behavior or simply in what makes consumers tick—marketing professionals, advertisers, psychology mavens, and consumers themselves—this is a fascinating read.
What do all successful fast-food restaurants have in common?
Why are women more likely to become compulsive shoppers and men more likely to become addicted to pornography?
How does the fashion industry play on our innate need to belong?
Why do men’s testosterone levels rise when they drive a Ferrari or a Porsche?
The answer to all of these intriguing questions is "the consuming instinct," the underlying evolutionary basis for most of our consumer behavior. In this highly informative and entertaining book, the founder of the vibrant new field of evolutionary consumption illuminates the relevance of our biological heritage to our daily lives as consumers. While culture is important, the author shows that innate evolutionary forces deeply influence the foods we eat, the gifts we offer, the cosmetics and clothing styles we choose to make ourselves more attractive to potential mates, and even the cultural products that stimulate our imaginations (such as art, music, and religion). This book demonstrates that most acts of consumption can be mapped onto four key Darwinian drives—namely, survival (we prefer foods high in calories); reproduction (we use products as sexual signals); kin selection (we naturally exchange gifts with family members); and reciprocal altruism (we enjoy offering gifts to close friends). The author further highlights the analogous behaviors that exist between human consumers and a wide range of animals.

374 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2011

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About the author

Gad Saad

5 books552 followers
Dr. Gad Saad is Professor of Marketing, holder of the Concordia University Research Chair in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences and Darwinian Consumption, and advisory fellow at the Center for Inquiry. He was an Associate Editor of Evolutionary Psychology (2012-2015) and of Customer Needs and Solutions (2014- ). He has held Visiting Associate Professorships at Cornell University, Dartmouth College, and the University of California-Irvine. Dr. Saad was inducted into the Who’s Who of Canadian Business in 2002. He was listed as one of the “hot” professors of Concordia University in both the 2001 and 2002 Maclean’s reports on Canadian universities. Dr. Saad received the JMSB Faculty’s Distinguished Teaching Award in June 2000. He is the recipient of the 2014 Darwinism Applied Award granted by the Applied Evolutionary Psychology Society and co-recipient of the 2015 President's Media Outreach Award-Research Communicator (International). His research and teaching interests include evolutionary psychology, consumer behavior, and psychology of decision making.

Professor Saad’s trade book, The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature (Prometheus Books), was released in June 2011, and has since been translated to Korean and Turkish. His 2007 book, The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption (Lawrence Erlbaum) is the first academic book to demonstrate the Darwinian roots of a wide range of consumption phenomena. His edited book, Evolutionary Psychology in the Business Sciences, was also released in 2011 (Springer), as was his special issue on the futures of evolutionary psychology published in Futures (Elsevier).

He has over 75 scientific publications covering a wide range of disciplines including in marketing, consumer behavior, psychology, economics, evolutionary theory, medicine, and bibliometrics. A sample of outlets wherein his publications have appeared include Journal of Marketing Research; Journal of Consumer Psychology; Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes; Journal of Behavioral Decision Making; Evolution and Human Behavior; Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics; Marketing Theory; Journal of Social Psychology; Personality and Individual Differences; Managerial and Decision Economics; Journal of Bioeconomics; Applied Economics Letters; Journal of Business Research; Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences; Psychology & Marketing; Journal of Consumer Marketing; Medical Hypotheses; Scientometrics; and Futures. His work has been presented at 170 leading academic conferences, research centers, and universities around the world.

Dr. Saad has supervised or served on the committee of numerous Master’s and Doctoral students, as well as one post-doc. He has been awarded several research grants (both internal as well as governmental). Using his own grant money, he created an in-house behavioral marketing lab. He serves/has served on numerous editorial boards including Journal of Marketing Research; Journal of Consumer Psychology; Psychology & Marketing; Journal of Business Research; Journal of Social Psychology; Evolutionary Psychology; Open Behavioral Science Journal; Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics; Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology/Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences; The Evolutionary Review; and Frontiers of Evolutionary Psychology; and is an associate member of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. He has consulted for numerous firms, and his work has been featured in close to 500 media outlets including on television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and blogs. He has been designated Concordia's Newsmaker of the Week five years in a row (2011-2015).

Dr. Saad holds a PhD (Major: Marketing; Minors in Cognitive Studies and Statistics) and an MS from Cornell University, and an MBA (Specialization: Marketing; Mini-Thesis: Operations Research) and a BSc (Mathematics and Computer Science) both from McGill Uni

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 61 reviews
Profile Image for Alicia Fox.
472 reviews24 followers
August 11, 2014
This book describes common human behaviors (from why guys like driving fast cars to why women are willing to kill their feet wearing high heels) from an evolutionary perspective. Saad teaches MBAs, so it's not surprising that his analyses center on how an understanding of evolutionary psychology can help advertising campaigns on a global scale (in terms of recognizing what human likes and traits are universal rather than culturally specific).

Saad goes out of his way to confer a "don't shoot the messenger" idea. For example, it's not his sexist nature that makes him say that men are naturally more sexually jealous--it's the fault of hundreds of thousands of years of "paternity uncertainty" that makes men this way. And I get what he's saying. Likewise, I fully believe that to get real answers to life's problems, we have to know the truth about what causes our behavior.

However, Saad seems at times gleeful when the scientific truths he espouses trumps the work of feminist writers and researchers (like Naomi Wolf). In the logic of evolutionary psychology, it's inevitable that, say, a guy driving a Ferrari will have his aggressive-sexual testosterone levels raised, and that the guy will all the more so want to have sex with the curvy woman he sees walking along the street in high heels (signifying fertility through her figure, and a sexually receptive position via her raised buttocks). I understand that Saad is simply explaining the "why" of this situation. But when he virtually laughs off the writings of a person like Wolf, Saad comes across (at least to me) as dismissive of the very real problems that Wolf (and her ilk) try to address. Sure, the man and woman in the scenario I've described are doing only what they feel is natural, but a very real problem does occur when the scenario goes too far (e.g., the man assumes that the woman is available to him, and ends up harassing her). Instead of kindly offering recommendations for how the knowledge of evolutionary psychology could be used to treat the wrongs and unfairness inherently present in a bunch advanced chimps wearing clothes (that is, all of us), Saad opts to crow rather too loudly over the fact that his academic discipline trumps another academic discipline.

As far as the book goes, it's a great read. The material is written in a way that pretty much anyone can understand. However, my concern is that people (particularly MBAs and marketers) will read it and use evolutionary psychology against us. And, in tune with what I stated above, they will offer no apologies for any harmful sexism, etc., that is perpetuated as a result of their use of evolutionary psychology in marketing campaigns.
Profile Image for May 舞.
281 reviews4 followers
January 13, 2020
Evolutionary psychology is psuedo-science. No matter how many observations and generalizations one makes (if they are indeed statistically true), so long as it's not verifiable, it's not science .

I can't believe I wasted time reading this book.
Profile Image for Greg Linster.
251 reviews81 followers
February 21, 2013
The aphorist, Aaron Haspel, once wrote: "Once you see human interaction as a contest to signal mating fitness, you never see it as anything else."  That's both interesting and true, but for the purposes of this review, I'm going to need to paint with a broader brush: once you see all aspects of human existence as a product of evolution, you never see them as anything else.  Modern-day consumerism is no exception and it's the subject of Gad Saad's fantastic book The Consuming Instinct.

Saad is a professor of marketing at Concordia University and writes a popular blog at Psychology Today called Homo Consumericus .  Using various parts of evolutionary theory, Saad dissects modern-day consumer behavior with applaudable gusto.  Parts of his analysis are sure to be offensive to some, which suggests to me that he's on to something.  As a general rule of thumb, if some people are strongly offended by an idea, it's worth giving it special consideration.  This is because many truths simply aren't all that pleasant.  Many people respond to these types of books with knee-jerk reactions full of personal attacks and hatred because they confuse positive statements with normative ones.  I would urge these people to consider that explaining how things are says nothing about how they ought to be.

The subtitle of the book is What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature.  Not surprisingly, they reveal quite a bit.  These four items speak to the four Darwinian pursuits that underlie human existence: survival, reproduction, kin selection, and reciprocity.  The consuming instinct, then, can be studied under the lens of evolutionary psychology (EP), which is a theoretical framework that proposes that the human mind evolved by the same Darwinian forces that shaped all animals.  The human brain is simply another product of the dual evolutionary processes called natural selection and sexual selection.  More people are familiar with former and not the latter, which can explain things like art, religion, and consumer behavior.

It's worth noting that amongst those who believe in evolution, there seems to be a small contingent of people who believe that evolution can explain the human foot, but anything above the neck is off limits.  In other words, they are hesitant to give any credence to the field of evolutionary psychology  because they don't like some of the logical implications that follow.  Like Saad, I believe this is an egregious mistake.  The human brain is an amazing thing, but the fact that some people want to elevate it to something that was created outside the bounds of the natural world is silly.  I think Malcolm de Chazal would remind us of the following: “Monkeys are superior to men in this: when a monkey looks into the mirror, he sees a monkey.”

Political correctness be damned, Saad takes a refreshing and no holds barred approach to debunking the myths of social constructivism, particularly the myths surrounding gender differences.  The Harvard evolutionist E. O. Wilson, once said: “The genes hold culture on a leash. The leash is very long, but inevitably values will be constrained in accordance with their effects on the human gene pool.”  Anyone who understands the power of evolutionary theory will understand that marketing efforts for products that don't align with our natural instincts are doomed to fail.  Excellent marketers are intuitively well aware of this reality too -- they understand that the way to market beer to men is different than is way to market cosmetics to women.

There is a reason why men consume more pornography, more Ferraris, and are more likely to participate in extreme sports than are women.  These differences are due to a deep rooted evolutionary causes and it's a sad state of affairs when one is considered a cultural deviant for suggesting that men and women, thanks to the process of evolution, have deep biological differences.  I'll proudly wear the label of "cultural deviant" if that's the term used to describe people who are more interested in knowing the truth than they are in hearing fictitious, yet comforting stories.

Here's an interesting fact from the book: studies show that when men drive a Porsche they experience an increase in testosterone levels.  It appears that the mere act of sexual signaling can cause an increase in testosterone in men.  How many men would care about driving a Porsche if no one were around to watch though?  I suspect that the answer is not many.  I think this is why you see men cruising around in Porsches and Ferraris in crowded hotspots like Chicago's Viagra Triangle on a Saturday night and not in downtown Longmont, Colorado.  This, of course, prompts an interesting philosophical question: If a sexual signal is flashed and no one is there to receive it, does it really exist?

Another thing that's bound to upset social constructivists is that universal metrics of beauty do exist, and are not arbitrary social constructs.  Studies show that a deep male voice is universally attractive, which makes sense since it indicates a greater exposure to pubertal testosterone.  Studies also show that women with the optimum waist-to-hip ratio of around 0.7 are preferred by men around the world.  Universally, for men, achieving high status in the social hierarchy matters greatly if one wants to be an attractive mate, while, for women, it's physical beauty that matters most.

One of my favorite chapters was called "Marketing Hope by Selling Lies".  In the chapter Saad explains that there are many unpleasant biological-based realities, like aging, mortality, sexual boredom in monogamous relationships, and the fact that children are born with innate differences in abilities.  Marketers, and self-help gurus of all varieties, see this as an opportunity.  After-all, it provides them a chance to sell hope, which is often nothing but an especially insidious form of snake oil.

Saad sees religion as the greatest (and perhaps evilest) product ever devised.  He writes: "Religion possesses unique attributes that render it a marketer's dream product."  Indeed it is.  A number of televangelists get in front of audience every Sunday and tell their delusional, yet optimistic followers that God has great things in store for them in the afterlife if only they give up their worldly possessions to their preacher in this life.  Don't worry, God wants the preacher to have your money -- apparently He said so.  Alas, these religious charlatans are smart enough to know that it helps to plant the seed of fear early if you want to swindle people out of their money later in life.

The Argentine shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis once famously said: "If women didn't exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning."  Even if you already intuitively understand why that is so, I highly recommend reading The Consuming Instinct anyway.
Profile Image for John Kennedy.
204 reviews2 followers
September 13, 2011
This book has some great brief bursts of interesting and creative insights into topics such as tattoos, hospitality, pets, friendships and toys. Saad can be quite interesting in analyzing why we eat as if there's no tomorrow. But the book is uneven, and long stretches are dull. Saad is an atheist and traces everything to Darwin evolutionary causes. Comparisons between animals and humans abound. He posits that humans act devoid or morality, and some theories (e.g. men who view porn treat women better than men who don't) are dumb. Saad ventures into areas outside his expertise, particularly religion. He believes teaching children about God is tantamount to child abuse. He should have stuck to verifiable research.
Profile Image for Joe Robles.
234 reviews20 followers
January 19, 2014
Overall this is a good book that examines the relationship between our evolved psychologies and how marketing and business tap into that, whether consciously or unconsciously. The two problems I had with this book are that, first, it basically pre-supposes an acceptance of Evolutionary Psychology as a guiding force in our lives. As someone who studied E.P. at U.T. Austin, and enjoyed learning from David Buss, I accept the points laid out in the text(and usually knew the studies referenced in more depth). But if you're a layperson with a passing interest in why people consume porn and why people smoke cigarettes and eat fatty foods when we know it's bad for us, the supporting arguments may be a little harder to swallow (pardon the pun). The areas where Gad Saad goes the most in-depth, which happens with all scientists who write, are the areas where he personally conducted the studies and experiments. Of course, had he gone more in-depth on every point this would have been a much larger book. To that end, I feel this is a good introduction to E.P. as it relates to consumer behavior. For more on the subjects mentioned in the book, I recommend the works of David Buss and Steven Pinker, as well as the book A Billion Wicked Thoughts by Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam.

My second problem is that the author seems to go out of his way to pick a fight with religion and religious beliefs. I just don't think that was necessary. I'm an atheist myself, so I agree with his positions, I just feel he'll probably turn off a lot of people who might otherwise have picked up the book and enjoyed it. I do think he should have examined how religions use our Evolved Psychologies to convert and keep people in particular religions, I just think it could have been done in a more, shall we say, diplomatic manner.

I was reminded of a class I took at U.T. called Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. Basically this class was a class on debunking the paranormal. It was a class in the Physics department and was a great way to learn the scientific method and how it could be applied to areas outside of traditional Physics and Chemistry. The class took on cults but not religion, though you could apply the principles to traditional religion as well. The professor never made the explicit argument that religion was a "hoax" the way Gad Saad did, but instead left you with the tools to make that assumption yourself.

I believe if Gad Saad had gone this route, it would have been a better book. You could have still pointed out how religion uses our fear of death and need to belong to keep us in check, without restating Richard Dawkins position that "targeting religious messages to children is tantamount to child abuse". The section on religion, while pointing out how it uses evolved psychology to market itself, seems needlessly antagonistic.

I loved the book and thought it presented some great ideas, however, I know I wouldn't be able to recommend this to several of my non-atheist friends and family for fear of insulting them.

Oddly enough I didn't have the same feeling when he attacked homeopathic and naturalistic "medicine" as I am really antagonistic towards quack medicine myself. My entire family is deeply religious, but they aren't quack doctors. So maybe his book triggered my "us versus them" evolved psychology.

So, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a basic introduction into how marketing and business exploit our evolved psychologies, with the caveat being that you should probably be an atheist or at the very least hardcore agnostic before reading. Alternatively you could skip the chapter titled "Marketing Hope by Selling Lies".
Profile Image for Vlad.
729 reviews33 followers
October 10, 2020
The author too enthusiastically applies the hypothesis that culture is based on behaviors evolution has taught us. Saad comes across as seeming to believe that 80% of our behavior is genetically predispositioned, and I think that's just too extreme a position.

With regards to the nature vs. nurture debate, this author is strongly in former camp, using it to describe all manner of consumer behaviors. I don't think he's wrong in some of his statements, but the certainty with which he applies the theory doesn't feel even-handed or fair. Ultimately, reading this might have shifted my assignment of behaviors to the "nature" camp 5%, but I didn't find it a very convincing set of arguments overall.
Profile Image for Holly.
14 reviews
October 18, 2011
Mostly had a 'heard it all before' feeling reading this and author comes across as so arrogant. No respect for any religion, and frankly, whether you are a believer or not, his type of smug, superior atheism comes across as unnecessary, boring and rather ignorant. Lots of better books cover topics in this book so dont waste your time/money is my recommendation.
Profile Image for Grace.
675 reviews1 follower
December 4, 2011
This book practically jumped off the library shelf and on top of my pile of library books. The cover is a (presumably) naked woman wearing nothing but a price tag around her neck stating that food, fast cars, porn, and giving gifts can reveal something about human nature. I'm fascinated by the human brain and by our biology, especially as it relates to or explains commonplace aspects of our lives. For example, I never thought that giving a gift to someone could be explained by something having to do with Charles Darwin and evolution. Did you?

Author Gad Saad, according to the bio on the back jacket of the book, is "a popular blogger for Psychology Today, is a professor of marketing at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University. He holds the Concordia University Research Chair in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences and Darwinian Consumption and is the author of The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption, as well as numerous scientific papers." To sum it up, Gad Saad knows his stuff when it comes to evolutionary psychology.

He also knows how to present information in easy to understand ways. I attributed this to his time spent as a college professor. The beginning of The Consuming Instinct takes time to outline what evolutionary psychology is and is not as well as the four Darwinian drives:

1. Survival. This drive explains our penchant for fatty, high caloric foods. Early humans ate fatty foods to build up reserves because the next meal wasn't always guaranteed.

2. Reproduction. This drive explains our courtship rituals like a man giving a woman flowers or an engagement ring and why men are risk takers and women wear make up.

3. Kin selection. This drive explains why we do more to aid our close family members than anyone else. We want our genes to develop and last.

4. Reciprocity. This drive explains why we do for close friends and even strangers. We may want or need someone to do something for us with little to no motivation from the previous three drives.

Saad continues his arguments by elaborating on these four drives in regard to every day cultural consuming and the marketing that often times drives it. From an evolutionary psychological standpoint, he explains our desire for fast food from chains like McDonalds and Taco Bell, why men give women flowers or engagement rings, why men use cars and clothes to show their appeal to women and why women use cosmetics and high heels, why we spend more money on gifts for close family than we do extended family or friends, and why men prefer hardcore porn and women prefer erotica. Then he uses this framework to prove his (potentially offense to some) opinions on religion, self help books and those who use them, and gender socialization and stereotypes.

Wait, what?

This is where Gad Saad lost me. It's one thing to disprove a commonly held assumption, such as traditional gender roles being biological rather than social or environmental. It's one thing to use your knowledge of evolutionary psychology to back up atheist beliefs. But it's not okay to use a general interest book targeted to the average person to shove your beliefs down readers' throats. That's not what I signed up for when I picked up this book.

As the book progressed, Saad's underlying attitudes became more forceful and the book became more of a soap box for him to air his opinions, grievances, and gender biases even when they were irrelevant to the subject at hand. As a narrator charged with presenting knowledge and facts to a general readership, Saad failed because he couldn't keep these unwanted and unnecessary opinions to himself. I finished the book with little to no interest in evolutionary psychology, which was something I was extremely interested in at the beginning of the book. Gad Saad's male superiority complex and utter disdain for anyone who thinks differently from him lost any credibility he may have had with me. I also got the impression that this Lebanonese born, Canadian raised man writing mostly about and for Americans looked down on his neighbors to the south as being vapid and stupid. And, I still have no idea why this man thinks "targeting religious messages to children is tantamount to child abuse" (p. 206).

Needless to say, I wasn't pleased with this book. I am giving it a two out of five though because I learned a lot of fun facts in the first half of the book like:

The use of spices in cooking is positively correlated to a country's ambient temperature. The hotter the temperatures, the hotter the spices used in food. (p. 47)
We make over 225 food related choices per day. (p. 53)
When a red light turns green, drivers are more likely to honk at lower status cars than their own and to do so more quickly than when at a higher status car. (p. 74)
High heels elevate a woman's backside 20 to 30 degrees. (p. 82)
The average amount of time Americans spend watching TV is 153 hours and 27 minutes per month. If you live until 75 and begin watching TV at the age of 5, you spent 14.5 years of your life watching television. (p. 158)

This review originally appeared on Feeding My Book Addiction: http://feedingmybookaddiction.blogspo...
Profile Image for Bob Nichols.
870 reviews283 followers
August 18, 2012
This book traces consumption patterns back to their evolutionary origins. In many ways, this is an update of The Naked Ape of the 1960s. Helpfully, Saad reminds us that evolutionary psychology must look at behavior from two different levels. Most of us stay at the "proximate" level that describes what we do and how we do it. The author goes deeper and looks for the "ultimate," evolutionary, explanations for what we do.

Regarding those who oppose "the explanatory power of evolutionary theory" because of ideological dangers or biological determinism, Saad in many ways shows how the advertisers see the truth about human nature better than most of us. We are not about "self-actualization," he writes. We are really about food, sex, family, status and so forth, even though much of our behavior is malappropriate because "multiple Darwinian instincts" tug us in different directions. Darwinian rationality he says trumps economic rationality.

Saad references four overriding Darwinian "drives" (survival, reproduction, kin selection, reciprocity). That selection seems arbitrary. Why is kin selection and reciprocity the equal of reproduction when kin selection is, at least as argued by its proponents, subsidiary to reproduction. Also, reciprocity is one of many ways we survive and reproduce so it too is subsumed by the more "ultimate" drives of survival and reproduction. In addition, what role does fear and other-oriented social traits play in our lives? What role does group belongingness play? Etc. These fall outside Saad's "meta drive" concept, yet seem central to who we are.

In a way, Saad seems to repeat what others have argued, and then places "the consuming instinct" on all of it without much of a critical eye. He stamps "kin selection" as true and then turns around and says that friendships are often more important than family ties without accounting for the contradiction. Do we really care about promoting the genes of those relatives who are not our direct offspring, or do we happen to promote our kin's welfare because they are the first members of our group, and we are bred to seek support from and to support our group because it is essential for our survival?

Saad does come right out and refers to many instincts as "drives." That was refreshing. Typically, "drives" seem reserved for our animalistic hunger and sex needs, with the rest of our emotions being largely reactive to environmental stimuli. What Saad does is to show that we have a full suite of inner needs that push us into the world. We are consumers of the world. Advertisers know this and respond to these needs. Advertisers can influence, manipulate and deceive us because we want things from that world (food, sex, status). Behavior is not just responding. Behavior is seeking and responding, working together, both in the service of survival and reproduction.

April 25, 2021
This book has a rating of 3.69 out of 5. why?
Well, there is an old saying "veritas odium parit". People just don't like to hear awkward truths. The book is filled with them. Evolutionary psychology, dut to its nature, defies constructivism. Social constructivists propose that we, human beings are socially and culturally developed, and thats it. A male baby, at five years old decides to be a baby girl and its ok, gender studies are ok with that.
Well, this is where probably Goodreads may ban my account, or any lgbt member may ask for it, but there's a problem where ideologies meet objective truths.

The book states (well-written) that we are a species shaped by the forces of nature, thus evolution. And that's it. We react the way we do because our brains are shaped to do so. Our bodies, genitalia, hormones, muscles and proteins react because of a evolutionary drive. Differences between men and women are there, for us to see, but new ideologies do not take them into account.

Why do men watch more porn than women?
Why do men live shorter than women?
Why women resist more pain than men?
Why do men create more muscle than women do?
Why do men prefer the hourglass figure instead of morbid obese women?

People may find some questions patriarchal or sexist, but these are just questions quickly answered using the scientific method. And the book its not just about men and women, but also about what we may call "human universals". Human universals are behavioural patterns that trascend time and boundaries. Why? because every human being, despite their origins, cultural approach or geographical location, belong to the same species. Simple as that.

The book will be unconfortable to people who are a part of these new gender, inclusive or "whiteness" studies (yeah, that shit is real), because it shows and explains facts, and not subjective criteria.

We gotta give evolution a chance, in a world where people believe the Earth is flat and creationism is found in every corner.
Profile Image for Joshua.
236 reviews50 followers
August 10, 2020
An interesting exploration of human behavior through the lens of evolutionary psychology. Through vigorous research, Saad offers evolutionary explanations for a wide array of human behaviors. He rejects the absurd notion of human beings as "tabula rasa" - instead delivering a theoretical framework that takes into account both genetics (nature) and environmental expression (nurture).

One aspect of this book that I did not enjoy is the author's smug, dismissive attitude (an attitude that persists beyond his writing - see his appearances on JRE and his own show). Despite that drawback, I can easily recommend this book. I look forward to reading his latest: The Parasitic Mind.
64 reviews1 follower
January 14, 2021
I wanted to read Saad's latest book but it was out so I gave this a shot.

It's basically a primer on evolutionary psychology which I gotta say seems pretty commonsense, but maybe I've just been indoctrinated by the ideas since this book was published.

Let's see if I can explain what I think it is having just finished the book:

Evolutionary psychology is a field that looks for insights into human behavior through the lens of evolution. Sort of tautological but not bad.

So ideas such as:

--Men use conspicuous consumption as a way to signal to prospective mates that they are resource-rich (think Ferraris which Saad says are purchased by some massive fraction by men)
--Men pick mates on looks (health and fitness markers, hip-waist ratios), women pick mates on resources
--Women have more to lose in child-rearing so they are choosier about mates while men are sluts. He emphasizes this isn't cultural
--Gift-giving isn't altruism, it's savvy behavior from members of a social species that keeps score of such things.

The broader points made are that all these arguments about "fat-shaming is wrong and culturally driven" are horseshit because we are biologically built to prefer not fat mates. He said something like "If men preferring supple titties and fat asses is wrong, so is women preferring muscular CEOs to unemployed short janitors."

He's much funnier in his podcast. A little of his humor shone through here, but I got the feeling he was still finding his way with writing in this book.
Profile Image for Donnie Edgemon.
63 reviews2 followers
January 15, 2012
"The Consuming Instinct" is about the application of evolutionary psychology to consumer behavior. The basic idea is that natural selection and sexual selection in ancestral environments have determined the wiring of the modern human brain and vestiges of those primal influences drive human tendencies in consumption. That's right, it's an important concept for marketers and policy-makers, and it's a field that is still under development. However, this book disappointed me. It seems to me that somebody suggested to Saad that he put together a few hundred pages on this topic with some provocative examples, and it would be a sure best-seller because there is enough market interest. Unfortunately, Saad's work seems slapdash and superficial. He included fewer research examples than expected, in some cases failing to support his (correct) point much at all. If I had not studied the subject some before reading the book, I might have come away unconvinced of some of his assertions because of the lack of evidence he presented. Despite the important topic, the book just has the feel of a "mailed in" effort.
Profile Image for Mimi.
136 reviews
September 13, 2018
Really eye-opening but depressing. Saad reduces humans to nothing more than their biology for the purposes of understanding how they tick, then never lifts humans back up to anything more than that. He paints people as nearly devoid of 'human' agency and suggests that only the truly careful can avoid reacting in the instinctual ways he lays out in this book. The person who thinks is the exception here, and that was an idea that really left me despairing when I read it.

I would like to read a response to this book by someone with a different perspective or even a follow-up by Saad himself. Although it is possible with effort to put a positive, hopeful spin on the conclusions therein, in 2018, the last thing we need is the message that most people's actions and thoughts are beyond their control. If anyone has any recommendations, feel free to let me know.
Profile Image for Andrew Tollemache.
325 reviews21 followers
February 9, 2018
Evo Psych vs. Blank Slaters is one of the great grudge match intellectual debates of our age and so I was squeamish about stepping into some part of it by reading this book. That said Gad Saad has written a pretty good book detailing how Darwinian type insights can be very predictive of patterns of consumer behavior. That the spending patterns of various demogrpahics and between the sexes. The book is written to inform people in marketing about how best to tailor messaging.
Sometimes evolutionary explanations get a little cutesy and feel back fitted for the phenomena they are explaining, but this book had definite good singhts for sure.
35 reviews10 followers
January 24, 2021
Good example of privilege effecting science. This is a white supremacist and homophobic book. Downplays the role of oppression, technology, and social networks in human behavior, and acts as if gay and trans people don't exist
Profile Image for Mike Cheng.
212 reviews6 followers
July 12, 2020
The author Gad Saad (who's had interesting takes on Rogan's podcast (including JRE 1218) explains a variety of human behaviors with theories from evolutionary psychology, with a focus on consumer preferences. Quite the interesting take on (supposedly and generally) why we're drawn to fatty foods, males want expensive / fast cars, females wear jewelry and heels, and some bases for certain religious doctrines. There's also tangential discussion about sexual selection, including why males are typically more promiscuous, and how females are much more discriminate in choosing mates. (In this vein fans of Matt Ridley's work, such as The Red Queen, may find the arguments enjoyable). Whether or not you're inclined to agree with the book, it's interesting to see through the lens of evolution how certain products are being marketed to us; it’s also important to protect ourselves from mass marketing manipulation (if you believe such exists).
Profile Image for Michael.
43 reviews2 followers
October 28, 2020
This book is a mix between how evolutionary psychology can inform marketing and an argument for the value of evolutionary psychology as a belief system. I thought there were a lot of interesting points made; however, I don't think the author did himself any favors when trying to make the argument for stronger support of evolutionary psychology. Not to say that I don't agree with many of his claims, but he has an attitude that comes across as, "Evolution tells us that X is this way because of Y, and you're an idiot if you think any differently." It seemed like he didn't feel the need to provide supporting evidence for some of his claims, because in his mind it should be obvious to everyone that that's just how it is. All that aside, I think anybody interested in human behavior and marketing will find the book interesting and worth checking out.
Profile Image for Mr Gupta.
59 reviews
July 17, 2020
I picked up this book for the answer to one question that is if we actually are a blank slate and everything we do is influenced by environment as we're cultural beings.

Book is kept short, that's neat. Writing could have been easier for an average reader. Scientific mumbo jumbo is thrown around usually all the time , even for narrating simple stuff which increases tedium as actual stuff is rather easy to understand.

I did love the analysis of self help books, religion and God. It's so tangled that we are always at fault. Humans are so insecure about everything in life. The above three are often sugar coated to cash out on insecurities about morality and life it's based on on hope and therefore immune to failing.

References are appreciated, but I think more researchis required.
Profile Image for John.
103 reviews5 followers
March 23, 2017
Less interesting than I was hoping.

I loved applying evolution to marketing and business, but it felt a little bit less academic than I was expecting from a professor (i.e. using selective pop-culture references as examples).

The author's personality definitely comes through, which is a positive. There are hints of sarcasm mixed in with the information and a certain level of snarkiness that is pleasant if you agree with him and grinding if you don't.

I think the concepts are important to consider in a marketing environment, and I thought through some applications that might benefit from the concepts.
Profile Image for Gian Andrea.
Author 6 books35 followers
October 1, 2021
What can be said about the author, professor Gad Saad, that has not been said already?
Necessary - is the first word that comes to mind.
Engaging, educational and downright hilarious.
In a time of social constructivism and cultural relativism, voices like his are most needed.
And the book is almost as good as listening to him in person. Love it.
HIGHLY RECCOMENDED to anyone, literally everyone, who still believes that rational thinking and scientific process should be part of a pure, open-minded, logical and free process of search for truth - not enslaved/corrupted by sociocultural paradigms.
85 reviews
June 16, 2022
While I agree with most of the author's sentiments over the course of this book, it's far, far from perfect in putting its point across. While some sections are eye-opening in their ability to view the mundane and ordinary things in life from a totally different perspective. The book is weighed down by its own point, which is that much of this stuff feels almost natural, and doesn't need so much attention given to it. Some examples are absolutely thrown upon the reader in 50 different ways, when in fact we already know and maybe agree with the author's point.

So yes, an interesting book whose central point is effectively repeated throughout. It is at least interesting before it gets dull.
1,186 reviews34 followers
April 13, 2022
Plenty of info for those who are not in tuned with psychology and such in everyday affairs. I stayed for the trivia and the eye-opening reveals regarding human behavior. There are plenty of moments where he picks up something exciting and doesn’t fully finish the exposition. With the amount of topics he mentions, he would probably fill a few volumes of intriguing and revelatory information.

This book goes well beyond shopping and is a worthwhile read to get readers interested in what humans do based on deep-seated / evolutionary inclinations.
25 reviews
July 13, 2021
This book has a lot of scientific reference to things we instinctly know, from why men like pornography to why people get addicted to certain things, you will have a lot of AHA! moments, noticing biological reasons to many of your day to day behaviors.

"An Oncologist studying how cancer works, does not make them a cancer apologyst"
Profile Image for An Do.
34 reviews10 followers
December 1, 2020
While I appreciate the up front treatment of common rebuttals to evolutionary theories, I'm not fully convinced of the effects mentioned, perhaps the author could have addressed his framework more thoroughly and how that would support and falsify, rather than dwelling on anecdotes.
108 reviews
February 24, 2019
I found this fascinating and I feel better armed against the tools and tricks of marketers.
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