Behavioural Economics Bummer

In its predictive power and future for marketers in the fields of commerce and politics, the field of behavioural economics is… depressing… Depressing in that a science will likely evolve with an evermore powerful and nuanced ability to predict, for example, why you just chose a Pepsi over a Coke.

In The Guardian, William Davies has a well-written piece on the behavioural economics phenomenon, situating it within a neo-Marxian context:

What we witness, in the case of a social media addict, is only the more pathological element of a society that cannot conceive of relationships except in terms of the psychological pleasures that they produce. The person whose fingers twitch to check their Facebook page when they are supposed to be listening to their friend over a meal is a victim of a philosophy in which other people are only there to please, satisfy and affirm an individual ego from one moment to the next. This inevitably leads to vicious circles: once a social bond is stripped down to this impoverished psychological level, it becomes harder and harder to find the satisfaction that one wants. Viewing other people as instruments for one’s own pleasure represents a denial of the core ethical and emotional truths of friendship, love and generosity.

One grave shortcoming of this egocentric idea of the social is that none (or at least, vanishingly few) of us can ever constantly be the centre of attention, receiving praise. And so it also proves with Facebook. As an endless stream of exaggerated displays of positivity or success, Facebook often serves to make people feel worse about themselves and their own lives. The mathematics of networks means that most people will have fewer friends than average, while a small number of people will have far more than average. The tonic to this sense of inferiority is to make one’s own exaggerated displays of positivity or success, to seek the gaze of the other, thereby reinforcing a collective vicious circle. As positive psychologists are keen to stress, this inability to listen or empathise is a significant contributor to depression.

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