Sunday, July 12, 2009
Love, Money, Happiness: Evolutionary Biology
In his book Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller examines what dictates our buying and spending decisions from lipstick to cars, from the texts we read to the music we enjoy.
For this book, Dr. Miller asked his readers to do the following exercise:
List the ten most expensive things (products, services or experiences) that you have ever paid for (including houses, cars, university degrees, marriage ceremonies, divorce settlements and taxes). Then, list the ten items that you have ever bought that gave you the most happiness.
Then he adds: Count how many items appear on both lists.
Here are the things that popped up on both of my lists.
There were five.
1) Travel - It's an indispensable component of my life. While my loved ones joke about my carbon foot-print and I counter that joke by saying, 'oy, I bike hundreds of miles a month. I'm making up for it,' travel has educated me in ways that are indeed incomparable. As I just noted to someone, I like travel because it keeps me honest.
2) Getting a PhD - Graduate work means all kinds of difficult as well as all kinds of happy. My years as a doctoral student were some of the most memorable ones. This is on both lists because, while it is a huge investment, it's also brought me a lot of happiness.
3) Apple gadgets - I'm a Mac-head. I converted over to Mac-ism when I was in college dating a Mac nerd. You've heard the saying, I'm sure, "once you go Mac, you never go back." Now, enlightened and on ship of hip, this is an investment that's yielded both high-frequency use as well as personal happiness. I know. Let it go. It's my list.
4) Indie rock shows. - As if I have to comment on this one! You can blame my interest in it on evolution.
5) Metropolitan Honda scooter - I used it almost as much as I use my Apple gadgets. It made me and mine very happy. Every time.
Which items made it on both of your lists?