Review: Spent by Geoffrey Miller

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Geoffrey Miller’s 2008 book Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior about conspicuous consumption uses the relatively new science of evolutionary psychology to analyse modern humans’ consumerist behavior. The bottom line is that we engage in conspicuous consumption to show potential mates, like animals, that we have desirable traits. Through countless examples, some of which are funny, Miller shows that this signalling game has gotten out of hand and turned into plain stupidity. He details the six commonly recognized basic personality traits (Honesty-Humility, Emotionality, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience) and shows how advertisers appeal to a combination of them.
The narrative of the book is largely funny, but one can be put off by the cynical overtones.
In the final chapters, Miller presents some solutions to conspicuous consumption, for example a consumer tax on luxury items.

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