Book review: Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior

Book review: Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior

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At the end of a day “Spent. Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior” is a great book by evolution psychologist Geoffrey Miller.

In my opinion it can be divided in three sections, which should be reviewed each individually to get a good idea of content offered.

For the overall score for an ever better leader I will give Spent. 90/100 – but please read further to get a good understanding why so.


Part I is about consumer behavior from evolutionary perspective: Why we behave the way we do.

This was super interesting stuff – and despite of the warnings Miller says “you most likely feel daunted by these ideas” I was not shocked. Actually many of my assumptions were proven true.

“All human brains have a deep and abiding interest in two big sets of evolutionary goals: displaying fitness indicators that were associated with higher social and sexual status in prehistory, and chasing fitness cues that were associated with better survival, social, sexual and parental prospects in prehistory.”

Most of our actions and motives boil down to the status race – how to make myself more attractive in my tribe and how that will position me in the market. Miller clearly explains and demonstrates how we transfer brand values to ourselves in order to be more desirable.

“(Marketing) is, ideally, a systematic attempt to fulfill human desires producing goods and services that people will buy.”

Good stuff and I would recommend this for everyone to read – it helps you to understand why you want the things you want: Why and how marketers amplify those urges and from professional point of view: how you can boost you personal / organizational / product / service / brand.

The same traits that show off one’s physical and mental health to parents and kin also attract friends and mates.

For the first part I will give the score of 90/100.

In my opinion this is really valuable information for everyone.


Part II is about the Central Six – which is more commonly known as the Big Five.

The Central Six is a system to evaluate people’s behavior, much like Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or like. For the Big Five Miller has added one important element: General intelligence. To measure or to talk about intelligence is somewhat taboo in general among the people – that is pretty weird, since it is the strongest of indicators of success in life. Higher intelligence predicts higher average success in every domain of life: school, work, money, mating, parenting, physical health, and mental health.

The other five elements are:

Openness to experience: (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious). Curiosity, novelty seeking, broad-mindedness, interest in culture and art, ideas and aesthetics. Openness correlates positively (but modestly) with intelligence. (Meaning that people with high openness rating are often smart.)

Conscientiousness: (efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless). Self -control, willpower, reliability, trustworthiness, a tendency to be organized and dependable, aim for achievement, and prefer planned rather than spontaneous behavior. Along with intelligence this is one the two traits most desired by employers.

Agreeableness: (friendly/compassionate vs. challenging/detached). Warmth, kindness, empathy, trust, a tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious towards others. It is also a measure of one’s trusting and helpful nature, and whether a person is generally well-tempered or not. Agreeable people often make good spouses and co-workers.

Extraversion: (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved). Energy, positive emotions, assertiveness, sociability and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others, and talkativeness.

Stability (neuroticism in the Big Five): (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident). The tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, and vulnerability. Stability also refers to the degree of emotional stability and impulse control. In fact, in the developed world, emotional stability predicts overall life satisfaction more strongly than does income or any other Central Six traits.

For the second part I will give the score of 80/100.

The Central Six is cool tool to categorize people and this section holds some nice information, but I am a quite reluctant to trust these kinds of tests – time will most likely prove them to be insufficient to comprehend the complexity of human psychology.


Part III of the book is about Miller’s ideas how to make the world a better place with the understanding of evolution psychology.

To be honest; this part was like a way-too-long blog posting. The ideas are quite far from being realistic (like tattooing the Central Six score to forehead) and I must admit that I did not read this section with too much of diligence. I sure do understand that Geoffrey had had a great time writing this section, but I got the feeling that these final 100 pages or so could have been drop out or made to be online follow up material. According to the peak end -rule I have earlier written about, this 3rd part made the overall experience feel weaker than the book would deserve.

For the third part I will give the score of 50/100. 

For the end I would like to add that I know that the average score is not 90, but 73/100. The score 90/100 is however justified because I think that even if you would only read the first part you would have got good bang for the buck. 🙂

Pros and Cons

+ Helps to understand why we behave the way we do
+ Allows marketers, leaders and advisors to focus on things that make real impact
– Mostly disregards environmental factors to consumer behavior
– The last 100 pages were not good.

The patient reader bonus

For those who had the patience and tenacity to read this far I will share a link I found while doing research about the Big Five. Please remember that these kinds of tests are mostly for fun and not to be taken too seriously. 🙂


My personal OCEAN score was like the image shows below, how was yours?

The time spent to write this blog posting was around 3 hours.

UPDATE, 12/11/2017

I decided to do the OCEAN online-test again to see if my score is about the same. Openness for experiences was the only that remained exactly the same, otherwise there were some slight changes:


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