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Evolution's Gold Standard

--by Diane Ackerman (Aug 16, 2011)


Feeling low? According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, when people feel bad, their sense of touch quickens and they instinctively want to hug something or someone. Tykes cling to a teddy bear or blanket. It’s a mammal thing. If young mammals feel gloomy, it’s usually because they’re hurt, sick, cold, scared or lost. So their brain rewards them with a gust of pleasure if they scamper back to mom for a warm nuzzle and a meal. No need to think it over. All they know is that, when a negative mood hits, a cuddle just feels right; and if they’re upbeat and alert, then their eyes hunger for new sights and they’re itching to explore.
 
It’s part of evolution’s gold standard, the old carrot-and-stick gambit, an impulse that evades reflection because it evolved to help infants thrive by telling them what to do — not in words but in sequins of taste, heartwarming touches, piquant smells, luscious colors.
 
Back in the days before our kind knew what berries to eat, let alone which merlot to choose or HD-TV to buy, the question naturally arose: How do you teach a reckless animal to live smart? Some brains endorsed correct, lifesaving behavior by doling out sensory rewards. Healthy food just tasted yummy, which is why we now crave the sweet, salty, fatty foods our ancestors did -- except that for them such essentials were rare, needing to be painstakingly gathered or hunted. The seasoned hedonists lived to explore and nuzzle another day -- long enough to pass along their snuggly, junk-food-bedeviled genes.
 
As with so many other aspects of life, we adults still play by the rules we learned in infancy. Feel bad, need a hug. Scary movie, grab the hand of your date. Hungry, nosh on salty chips not kelp noodles.
 
What does this have to do with “consumer research?” Wouldn’t you know it, five experiments have pinpointed how to capitalize on the findings and connect with shoppers in different moods. Apparently, someone feeling low is likely to respond more to the velvety ooze of a hand lotion, while a cheerful person is likely to respond more to the product’s shiny bottle and festive packaging.
 
Is no mood safe from marketing and manipulation, you may wonder? Apparently not. They can ambush your animal senses, whatever state your brain may occupy, no matter if you’re in the dumps or riding high. If the meringue-like hand cream doesn’t entice you one day, the Eiffel Tower-shaped box might on another. [...]
 
Can one outsmart the dictates of evolution? Sure, we do it all the time.  [...] Are we aware of where our drives are driving us? Rarely.
 
--Diane Ackerman, in Evolution's Gold Standard


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10 Previous Reflections:

 
On Aug 21, 2011 Abid Hussain wrote:

fair enough but people always think it is naive ,as it is not ,we must understand this



On Aug 19, 2011 Dinesh wrote:

Audio reflections from our circle on marketing and its effect on our senses ...



On Aug 19, 2011 Austin Correia MSFS wrote:

 People who have stuff to offer, might as well learn marketing strategies.



On Aug 18, 2011 sekaran wrote:

absolutely acceptable



On Aug 17, 2011 Ganoba wrote:

 This passage should not have appeared in this space.



On Aug 16, 2011 Derek wrote:

 Finally! A passage that is easy to read and accessible to most. 

This exerpt gives me pause because it explains why react under certain circumstances. For example, feeling lustful just after a break up with a significant other... quickly wanting to fill that gap of lost intimacy. Knowing so... maybe my actions will be different in the futue.  Thank you. Derek



On Aug 14, 2011 navin sata wrote:

In spritual perspective  most of us are like fish in water,we let our senses  wonder in endless ocean of material world  all marketing techniques  are fisherman with sensual baits once mind gets hooked on this lure ,and finds comfort in it  than endless cycle of sensual  contnues. we reason it in the name of  1. material necessity for our life style . our desires have no end they drive us from birth to death  .     only true spiritual knowlege can free us from all the marketing it takes us beyond body mind and intlect. always ask your self  what is the end resault.  it is described    -      In scripture  our body is our vehicle,five senses are five horses that we ride our veachle with, in this roads of life,our intlect  is reins  that contrlols our senses(horses) our true spirit soul is driver and passenger is our individual self.in war of mahabharat great warrior Arjun ask sh  See full.

In spritual perspective  most of us are like fish in water,we let our senses  wonder in endless ocean of material world  all marketing techniques  are fisherman with sensual baits once mind gets hooked on this lure ,and finds comfort in it  than endless cycle of sensual  contnues. we reason it in the name of  1. material necessity for our life style . our desires have no end they drive us from birth to death  .     only true spiritual knowlege can free us from all the marketing it takes us beyond body mind and intlect. always ask your self  what is the end resault.  it is described    -      In scripture  our body is our vehicle,five senses are five horses that we ride our veachle with, in this roads of life,our intlect  is reins  that contrlols our senses(horses) our true spirit soul is driver and passenger is our individual self.in war of mahabharat great warrior Arjun ask shri krishna to be his driver to guide him . we surrender to lord let our life and action follow spiritual advise shri krshna gave to all mankind. so the root  question s answer is in spirtual knowelege( think outside the box )  always love navin                                                                                                                                                                               

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On Aug 14, 2011 rahul wrote:

The passage reminds me a of a conversation I was having with a friend where I complained about the insidiousness of the media world, continually snagging, distracting, trapping, and dissipating people.  He responded by acknowledging that truth, but pointing out that to get snagged, you have to have hooks.  The lesson for me was that its more important to work on smoothing out those latent tendencies and desires that lead us to our own entrapment than complaining about the systems that are designed to trap people. Anyone who has bought organic vegetables knows that they spoil much faster than industrial vegetables.  Anyone who has visited a tropical forest knows that there are tons of bugs that want to eat a little piece of your body. It seems that wherever there is some life energy, there is something that is trying to take a little bit of that energy for itself.  In a modern western environment where we have largely eliminated the natural pests that perform this f  See full.

The passage reminds me a of a conversation I was having with a friend where I complained about the insidiousness of the media world, continually snagging, distracting, trapping, and dissipating people.  He responded by acknowledging that truth, but pointing out that to get snagged, you have to have hooks.  The lesson for me was that its more important to work on smoothing out those latent tendencies and desires that lead us to our own entrapment than complaining about the systems that are designed to trap people.

Anyone who has bought organic vegetables knows that they spoil much faster than industrial vegetables.  Anyone who has visited a tropical forest knows that there are tons of bugs that want to eat a little piece of your body. It seems that wherever there is some life energy, there is something that is trying to take a little bit of that energy for itself.  In a modern western environment where we have largely eliminated the natural pests that perform this function, we seem to have incorporated the pestilence into our collective nature, where to varying degrees, people live off the energy, attention, and inattention of their fellow man.  To some degree, this is a statement of our interconnectedness, but just beyond that is the realm of our individual intentions in the world.  We must take to live, but we must also give to live.  What is the most skillful way to dance in that reality?

The only answer seems to come from concentrating and deepening our attention so we're conscious of our hooks, and put some space between us and our lures.  The space gives us choice, and choice offers us increasing freedom in outsmarting our evolutionary hooks.

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On Aug 13, 2011 pk wrote:

 Five senses are our connectors to the outside world and yes, the dominant species in the world -- currently business organizations will try to take advantage of those connections. They want to make money and some times we welcome their personalization or customization to offer what we need. These are unconscious set of drives that dictate our autopilot behaviors. They are easy to manipulate.The key to choosing is not just awareness but attention to that awareness. When we pay attention to what triggers our energy, what drives help us move towards happiness, peace or satisfaction, then we might be able to create appropriate alarms that help us pay attention when it happens. it takes time and practice to become aware and pay attention but it is definitely worth it.For example, I am in San Antonio in a management conference. We have a big exhibition with so many book publishers offering attractive discounts on their books. In addition, on the last day of the conference, many of thes  See full.

 Five senses are our connectors to the outside world and yes, the dominant species in the world -- currently business organizations will try to take advantage of those connections. They want to make money and some times we welcome their personalization or customization to offer what we need. These are unconscious set of drives that dictate our autopilot behaviors. They are easy to manipulate.

The key to choosing is not just awareness but attention to that awareness. When we pay attention to what triggers our energy, what drives help us move towards happiness, peace or satisfaction, then we might be able to create appropriate alarms that help us pay attention when it happens. it takes time and practice to become aware and pay attention but it is definitely worth it.

For example, I am in San Antonio in a management conference. We have a big exhibition with so many book publishers offering attractive discounts on their books. In addition, on the last day of the conference, many of these publishers give away their books for almost nothing and knowing that, I keep track of books that I want to buy. The ones I must have, buy them right away but others I pay attention and on the last day I normally get a box full of them for 60-80%. It is reverse of what Diane is mentioning above. Businesses use our drives to drive us where they want us to and when we pay attention, we can do the same.

It is knowing that you have freedom to choose that allows one to not become a victim.

 

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On Aug 13, 2011 Conrad wrote:

Thank you Somik for the opportunity to respondParadoxically, karma seems to work for me. I still have many bad habits which facilitates my obesity and impatience , and many other shortcomings. Doing something about them is worthwhile. Meditation and practicing patience and peacefulness helps me much. Change for me is very slow. I must often remind myself that it is helpful to forgive myself, again, and again, and again. Karma is paradoxical in the sense that I do not gain merit from meditation, but it does help me to be myself, which, when I am mindful, I know that everything I do can be a meditation leading me towards more compassion for others and myself. This often fosters  a temporary realization that  I am no separate  one, going, nowhere. It also helps me to realize there is as the prajnaparamita says: "no  knowledge, no attainment, no realization, for there is nothing to attain." I must admit that I don't think that way very  See full.

Thank you Somik for the opportunity to respond

Paradoxically, karma seems to work for me. I still have many bad habits which facilitates my obesity and impatience , and many other shortcomings. Doing something about them is worthwhile. Meditation and practicing patience and peacefulness helps me much. Change for me is very slow. I must often remind myself that it is helpful to forgive myself, again, and again, and again. Karma is paradoxical in the sense that I do not gain merit from meditation, but it does help me to be myself, which, when I am mindful, I know that everything I do can be a meditation leading me towards more compassion for others and myself. This often fosters  a temporary realization that  I am no separate  one, going, nowhere. It also helps me to realize there is as the prajnaparamita says: "no  knowledge, no attainment, no realization, for there is nothing to attain." I must admit that I don't think that way very often unless I am asked to respond to comments by someone like Diane Ackerman. As Gandhi said: "If you don't see God in the next person you meet, it is a waste of time looking for him further. Meditation helps one see God in oneself even though that God might not be a being separate from the universe.

Warm and kind regards to everyone
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How does awareness of my drives as a practice and an outcome of cultivation play out for me?" And him will him and him and him

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