August 21, 2011

Ego depletion and advertising

John Tierney has a very insightful article on these issues in the New York Times Magazine. While I don't agree with all of it, I do agree with a fair bit, I'll summarize its main points.
1. Our ego (as in our central "executive authority") has limited energy.
2. Making decisions, at least to some degree due to the brain's energy use in this, depletes some of this energy.
3. Multiple demands can increase this depletion, and the rate of it.
4. Modern society often tends to be heavy on demands for decision-making, often under the rubric of "choice" and accompanying trade-offs.
5. That demand and depletion can fall heavier on the poorer, or (I infer from the article) the more time-stressed.

This all relates to advertising and marketing issues.

In the recovery world, one often hears the acronym HALT as a warning to be especially on guard about one's inner strength when one is Hungry, Angry, Tired or Lonely. (Some add an S for Sick.) The overwhelming amount of "choice" inflicted by modern varieties of food, clothing, etc, plus the ads that run off that, all would seem to similarly prey on those four acronym points.

That's why behavioral psychologists tell us not to shop for food while we're hungry. I certainly suspect we shouldn't shop for heavily "branded" items like clothes when we're lonely.

That said, this isn't just a matter of income disparity and rich advertising and marketing companies, or companies that rely heavily on branding, like Apple, getting richer at the expense of the rest of us.

We do have decision making ability ourselves. And, we need to consciously decide more often, and internally reaffirm the decision, to "drop out" of the shopping rat race more.


Eventually, the CEOs of these companies will finally realize they've pushed the envelope too far. It may take years, but, since the actual manufacturing of the products these companies sell, outside of branded food, is all outside the U.S., it won't affect a lot of jobs.

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