Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior (2009)

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A leading evolutionary psychologist probes the unconscious instincts behind American consumer culture

Illuminating the hidden reasons for why we buy what we do, Spent applies evolutionary psychology to the sensual wonderland of marketing and perceived status that is American consumer culture. Geoffrey Miller starts with the theory that we purchase things to advertise ourselves to others, and then examines other factors that dictate what we spend money on. With humor and insight, Miller analyzes an array of product choices and deciphers what our decisions say about ourselves, giving us access to a new way of understanding-and improving-our behaviors to become happier consumers.

A free sample chapter (Chapter 1: Darwin goes to the mall) in doc form is  here


"Written with greater verbal fluency than Henry James, argued with more penetrating insight than William James, this modern, clever, bold, beautiful, and occassionally infuriating book will become a classic" -- Matt Ridley, author of Nature via Nurture

"In a way never before so clearly and fully articulated, Geoffrey Miller has mapped the connections between evolved human tendencies and consumer wants, needs, and choices. Marketers who ignore the lessons of Spent lose a significant professional survival advantage" -- Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: Science and Practice

"One of the most perceptive and illuminating accounts of marketing and capitalism ever written. Always witty, often surprising, and sometimes shocking, this book is a sheer joy to read" -- Dylan Evans, author of Emotion: The Science of Sentiment

"According to the author, our purchases are powerful indicators of our personality and are used to lure in suitable mates and friends." -- Publishers Weekly

"Evolutionary psychologist Miller (The Mating Mind) digs deep into the primal past of humankind to discover the roots of…modern marketing? Actually, his focus is more on the makings of modern consumer culture—of which marketing is, he argues, a dominant force. Since evolutionary psychology seeks to examine how natural selection acts on psychological and mental traits, Miller applies this knowledge to help us understand what actually motivates us to buy. He pokes fun at popular culture and at the things we buy and flaunt to inflate our self-esteem and try to make ourselves more attractive. Personality research can inform the study of consumer behavior, and Miller shows us how having a better understanding of our own personalities will help us avoid the pitfalls of runaway consumerism. After all, millions of years of evolution have honed humans' natural abilities to win friends and mates, so why resort to expensive and ridiculous substitutes for our true identities and personalities? For both lay readers and academics, reading this book should be considered time well "spent."" -- School Library Journal


  • Jill Sundie at 'Evolutionary Psychology' journal link

Editions (including translations)

  • U.S./Canada hardback: Viking (New York) (2009) (96 citations)

  • U.S./Canada paperback: Penguin (New York) (2010)

  • U.K./Commonwealth hardback (Spent: Sex, evolution, and the secrets of consumerism): William Heinemann/Random House (London) (2009) (11 citations)

  • U.K./Commonwealth paperback (Must-have: The hidden instincts behind everything we buy): Vintage (London) (2010)

  • U.K. ebook: Random House UK (London) (in preparation for 2013)

  • Dutch translation (Darwin en de consument: Seks, Status en het brein): Uitgeverij/Contact (Amsterdam, 2009) (2 citations)

  • Portugese translation (Darwin vai às compras: Sexo, evolução e consume; Distribudora Record/ Editora BestSeller, Rio de Janiero, 2012)

  • Korean translation: Dongnyok Science (Seoul)

  • Polish translation: Prószinsky i S-ka SA Science (Warsaw)

  • Chinese translation: Cheers Publishing (Beijing)

  • Turkish translation: Alfa Publishing (Istanbul)

Suggested reading and viewing for Spent: A short list is  here

Endnotes for Spent: see  here 

References for Spent: see  here

Free bonus chapter that couldn't fit in the final book: "VirtueView: An augmented reality system for ethical consumption and investment" is  here