Why does a diploma from Harvard cost $100,000 more than a similar piece of paper from City College? Why might a BMW cost $25,000 more than a Subaru WRX with equally fast acceleration? Why do “sophisticated” consumers demand 16-gigabyte iPhones and “fair trade” coffee from Starbucks?
If you ask market researchers or advertising executives, you might hear about the difference between “rational” and “emotional” buying decisions, or about products falling into categories like “hedonic” or “utilitarian” or “positional.” But Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of New Mexico, says that even the slickest minds on Madison Avenue are still in the prescientific dark ages.
Instead of running focus groups and spinning theories, he says, marketers could learn more by administering scientifically calibrated tests of intelligence and personality traits. If marketers (or their customers) understood biologists’ new calculations about animals’ “costly signaling,” Dr. Miller says, they’d see that Harvard diplomas and iPhones send the same kind of signal as the ornate tail of a peacock...
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE OLD BRAIN!
The rest of the article can be viewed at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/19/science/19tier.html?_r=1