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

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  473 ratings  ·  53 reviews
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 porno
Hardcover, 374 pages
Published June 21st 2011 by Prometheus Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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Alicia Fox
Nov 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
May 舞
Oct 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
Greg Linster
Nov 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 p
John Kennedy
Jun 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 be ...more
Joe Robles
Jan 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 mor ...more
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
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 th
May 14, 2011 rated it did not like it
Basically boils down to "Men buy sports cars and are into excessive risk-taking so that they can attract a mate. Women buy shoes and makeup and diet products so that they can attract a mate. Men are attracted to youth and beauty and facial symmetry. Women are attracted to successful powerful men." I've heard it all before and it doesn't interest me. Also the writing style was too much like an academic paper and relied too heavily on listing 27 examples of everything.
Ben Rogers
Nov 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really great read. Learned so much about humanity and the psychology behind humanity's craziest consumption habits.

Saad is the best.

Bob Nichols
Aug 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
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" bec
Aug 10, 2020 rated it liked it
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
Donnie Edgemon
Dec 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
"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 so ...more
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 res
Andrew Tollemache
Feb 09, 2018 rated it liked it
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 evolutiona
Oct 18, 2011 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
Jan 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
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 con
Mike Cheng
Jul 12, 2020 rated it liked it
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 typic ...more
Oct 28, 2020 rated it liked it
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, ...more
Daksh Gupta
Jul 16, 2020 rated it liked it
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 th
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business, non-fiction
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 i
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A lot of the stuff is obvious and a bit repetitive. I also look at a lot of ' Psychological experiments ' with scepticism in light of recent revelations about poor standards and lack of solid science. I do think evolutionary views are extremely important and of a great help but that said the hard science has to be transparent. Robert Kurzban seems eminently more trustworthy. At times Saad seemed full of himself and to be honest isn't a great communicator. Some interesting points though. ...more
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 t ...more
An Do
Dec 01, 2020 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Jan 23, 2021 rated it did not like it
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 ...more
Martha Greenough
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
nothing you don't already know ...more
Yanick Punter
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: evolution
It had some interesting information. The rest of the information I was already aware of. Was not fond of the preaching.
Joske Vermeulen
Nov 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Author was kind enough to answer a question I had
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I found this fascinating and I feel better armed against the tools and tricks of marketers.
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Bursts of great insights but some stretches are dull. Overall a worthwhile read.
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good information, but read like a college paper than a book.
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Loved it, quite clearly written and simplified explanations of evolutionary behaviour 👏👏
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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, ...more

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