I am fascinated by the psychology behind our money decisions and recently came across Professor Scott Galloway who in his book, “The Four. The hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google”, uncovers how our ingrained “money” behaviours are so powerful they have created these mega companies.
You won’t be surprised to discover these drivers all originate in our basic prehistoric human instinct for survival. The same instinct that drives many of our suboptimal money habits.
While Galloway approaches this from the angle of how effective these companies are at their marketing game, I believe the effectiveness turns on how powerful our base desires are.
Our desire for certainty and answers to life’s questions
Pre the internet this need was typically met by praying to a god for answers. And then Google happened, the modern day god.
Google knows more about us than our closet family members. It knows when we are sick, sad, confused, depressed, lonely, hungry, bored, getting married, pregnant, getting divorced, craving some weird concoction and in the mood to shop.
And since it knows all this it is very well placed to offer us the solutions to our seeking in the form of targeted adverts. Targeted to talk directly to those desires and our credit cards.
Our desire for a tribe and connection
Our ancestors kept safe by staying within a tribe.
Fitting in literally was the line between life and death.
That ancient part of our brain still craves the security of connection.
And Facebook provides it. In buckets.
We get to see how people live their best lives. The dream vacations, the drool worthy house, the expensive car, the designer clothes and the extremely lucrative 4 hour work week.
And oh how we want it. No, how we need it. Because if we have all those things and live that life, we too can be part of that tribe.
Our craving to part a legitimate part of that crowd can lead to our most extreme money actions.
Our desire for abundance and instant gratification
Our early ancestors didn’t have the luxury of minimalism. Resources were scarce and when they did come upon a wind fall, the hugely successful hunt, or the productive forage, they would all immediately dive in and fill their bellies because who knew when the next opportunity would come.
There was no concept of delayed gratification and as a result it is not a natural choice for us in our modern lives.
We fear scarcity as a result of these traumatic formative years of human evolution and almost instinctively want to grab onto everything we could potentially need.
And what has evolved to meet our desires and deliver them speedily to us with the press of a button ?
Our desire to be attractive and procreate
One of our strongest instincts and drivers is the desire to keep mankind going, the desire to procreate.
And that means attracting the best partner for the job.
No virile partner could turn down the obvious attractions of a stylish, innovative, obviously successful lady technophile.
And what screams status louder than an Apple accessory? More Apple accessories!
Galloway argues that these four have become too powerful, not in a way that is evil, but in a way
that continues to feed our greed, our consumerism and the desire for power.
Again while Galloway’s concerns are for the potential corruption and despotism of those at the top, I would argue the bigger concern is for us, you and me, who are battling the suboptimal base instincts that drive us to fuel their power.
However there is salvation for us when we recognise these drivers and choose to take action to put more positive habits in place.