83 pages • 2 hours readJames Clear
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Society is structured to make life more attractive. The human brain goes wild when it experiences exaggerated stimuli which promotes excessive consumption. Other animals show similar behavior. In the 1940s, Niko Tinbergen performed a series of experiments on herring gulls. Adult herring gulls have red dots on their beaks that chicks peck at when they wanted food. Tinbergen created fake cardboard beaks which the baby gulls pecked at. The larger the dot, the more the chicks pecked at it. This heightened response to exaggerated cues is called supernormal stimuli, and it creates a stronger response in the brain. The human love of junk food, for example, reflects the high reward that human brains places on salt, sugar, and fat. These are calorie-dense foods, which would be useful for hunter-gatherer societies who had uneven food supplies. Today, it is easy to gain access to food, but your brain still rewards the stimuli like it is scarce. Companies exploit this to make products more attractive to consumers by optimizing products or adding dynamic contrast through a variety of sensations, like crunchy and creamy. This encourages people to eat more.
Clear suggests temptation bundling: linking an action you need to do with something that you want to do.