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Cool

How the Brain’s Hidden Quest for Cool Drives Our Economy and Shapes our World

By Steven Quartz & Anette Asp
9-minute read
Cool: How the Brain’s Hidden Quest for Cool Drives Our Economy and Shapes our World by Steven Quartz & Anette Asp

Cool (2015) explains how a social desire to fit in and be acknowledged propels humans to consume. Drawing on everything from neuroscience to evolutionary biology to economics and history, Cool explains why the drive to buy is natural.

  • Every marketer, everywhere
  • People interested in neuroscience
  • Anybody who wants to know what “cool” really means

Steven Quartz teaches cognitive science and philosophy at the California Institute of Technology where he is also principal investigator at the school’s Cognitive Neuroscience Lab. His primary research goal is to use the methods and techniques of neuroscience to better understand the humanities and social sciences.

Anette Asp is a pioneer of neuromarketing and renowned political scientist as well as communications and PR professional.

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Cool

How the Brain’s Hidden Quest for Cool Drives Our Economy and Shapes our World

By Steven Quartz & Anette Asp
  • Read in 9 minutes
  • Contains 5 key ideas
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Cool: How the Brain’s Hidden Quest for Cool Drives Our Economy and Shapes our World by Steven Quartz & Anette Asp
Synopsis

Cool (2015) explains how a social desire to fit in and be acknowledged propels humans to consume. Drawing on everything from neuroscience to evolutionary biology to economics and history, Cool explains why the drive to buy is natural.

Key idea 1 of 5

Three different decision-making forces in your brain guide your choices.

You make decisions every day. Even just a banal trip to the supermarket is full of choices and decision-making. But our behavior – including deciding what to buy – isn’t just a single set of actions. It’s actually in motion, swinging between three pleasure machines within the brain. You’re not necessarily conscious of these pleasure machines. They’re subconscious, and affect our behavior in their own particular ways.

Let’s look at how they work:

The first is the Survival pleasure machine. Quick and inflexible, this force operates based on reflexes that instinctively jump into action without a thought.

Say you’re having lasagna for dinner. You heap a huge serving onto your plate and, while chatting with your partner, help yourself to another one. You don’t even consider it. Why? Well, we humans are wired to eat as much as possible to survive!

The Habit pleasure machine is the second force. It’s the one that guides your routines and day-to-day life. You probably have habits you undertake so often, it’s like the habit dictates your behavior. For instance, many people have a cup of coffee every morning right after waking up. As opposed to an instinctual decisions, habit decisions form slowly over time.

Finally, there’s the Goal pleasure machine, the rational and conscious force. It allows you to weigh the pros and cons of a decision, and then make an informed choice. For example, you might habitually always buy Italian salad dressing, until one day you see an ad for Caesar salad dressing. The next time you’re at the store, you change your routine: you find the Caesar dressing, compare it to Italian dressing and decide which to buy.

But the Goal force also has a social component. When you’re evaluating the two dressings, you’re actually doing so based on who you think you are and how you think others see you. In other words, you might go with whichever is organic, or locally produced, because you want to show that you care about healthy food and the environment.

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