Confronting Cavemanomics

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 14, 2009 | Go to article overview

Confronting Cavemanomics


Byline: Jeremy Lott, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

In the late 1990s, Geoffrey Miller landed a research job with University College of London's Centre for Economic Learning and Social Evolution. Mr. Miller's heroic challenge was to get evolutionary psychologists - members of his particular academic guild - and game-theory economists to work together.

How well did that go? It was the most frustrating experience of my professional life, Mr. Miller confesses in his second book, Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior. It was apples to aliens: [W]e psychologists just did not understand the economists, and they did not understand us. They didn't think the same thoughts and they barely spoke the same language.

Mr. Miller's crisis point came in 1999 during a conference in London. The psychologists thought the economists might enjoy learning about their preference experiments, but it became obvious the assembled dismal scientists believed that consumer preferences were mere psychological abstractions - hidden hypothetical states that cannot be measured or explained apart from the purchases that they cause.

Now, he can chalk that one up to being ahead of the curve. In 2002, psychologist Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in economics for his development of Prospect Theory, which helps economists to better model real-life choices. Economics research has since shifted in a radically hands-on, experimental direction that is far more open to input from other disciplines. Many universities today express a marked preference for experimental economists for new hires.

But he couldn't have known that back at that conference in 1999. Fortunately, there was a rather large consolation prize to take away. Mr. Miller writes, [T]he economists gradually drifted away from the conference, leaving the psychologists to nurse our bruised egos, in the company of some strange-looking folks we hadn't seen before.

These strange-looking folks were marketers who turned out to be hot for psychology. Imagine that: They actually cared about people's preferences - where they came from, how they worked, and - let's not forget - how to profit from them.

In talking to the marketers, Mr. Miller explains, [A] new world opened up. He started reading as much marketing literature as he could get his hands on and now believes marketing is not just one of the most important ideas in business. It's become the most dominant force in human culture as well.

The author understands that this claim is open to charges of hyperbole. He replies that marketing is much more than mere advertising. Marketing-oriented companies help us discover desires we never knew we had, and ways of fulfilling them we never imagined. And this is taking place on a massive scale. In 2004, the United States had about 37,000 philosophy professors to 212,000 market and survey researchers.

Most of this research takes place without drawing much notice. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Confronting Cavemanomics
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.