Architectural Consumerism

I recently purchased a book on the long-time suggestion of my anthropology professor in college. Spent: Sex, Evolution and Consumer Behavior takes a look at modern consumer behavior from the perspective of evolutionary psychology. Seeking to illuminate the unconscious decisions we make deciding upon each of our purchases, Geoffrey Miller examines both fundamental evolutionary behavior as well as the contemporary world of consumerism, marketing and branding.

From the perspective of evolutionary psychology, we spend a tremendous amount of time and energy to broadcast our most favorable traits, including extraversion, openness to new experiences, kindness, general intelligence, creativity and more. Miller argues that today, we use the products that we buy and the brands we represent as tools to signal the traits that we would like to make the world aware of. What’s more, is that we also attempt to use superior products to deceptively make up for inferior traits.

Topics examined and discussed thus far include:

  • Fitness indicators
  • Marketing and Culture
  • Marketing vs. Memes
  • Consumerist Narcissism
  • Consumerist Delusion
  • Trait Signaling
  • Conspicuous Waste, Precision, and Reputation

So far, Spent has been intriguing and insightful. I have learned more about the ties between anthropology and modern culture, and my interest in the topic has been reignited. What is of great interest to me is how this field of research may be tied to architecture. If it holds that we use the products we buy to help display our desirable traits, then I imagine that we also use the rooms and homes we live in to do the same. If we rent, perhaps the place we rent, the neighborhood it is in, and how we occupy it says what we want it to about us. Similarly, if we buy or build a new home, how do we use our homes and dwellings to advertise our biological potential as mates? I have been interested in this topic for over two years, but never quite new how to phrase it, or where to begin. Now I do, and so begins our next project.


Part of the project will involve research, most likely based on interviews and surveys, to determine why people choose different elements of their home design. What they like and why, what they would change and why, and attempting to synthesize this data into patterns that reveal what traits each element is intended to display.

In addition, case studies will be executed on prominent global constructions, including not only the building or piece of infrastructure itself, but also the surrounding economic and cultural landscape to try to discern what messages the building was supposed to project about the people who created it and made it a built reality.

Interview Questions

Case Studies

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