Gad Saad

Author, The Consuming Instinct

Revealing how consumer behavior is hardwired into human nature

Add to Shortlist More Information @GadSaad

Biography

Gad Saad’s groundbreaking work utilizes principles from evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology to reveal how our innate biological drives affect both what we buy and what we consume. These drives, he finds, deeply influence our choices food, clothing styles, and even the films we watch and the music we listen to. Dr. Saad's pioneering work was recently honored by the Applied Evolutionary Psychology Society in granting him the 2014 Darwinism Applied Award. He also received the President's Media Outreach Award for Research Communicator of the Year (International). This award goes to the professor whose research was most covered by the global media.

Dr. Saad’s new and startling insights into consumer behavior provide new understanding into why products succeed or fail. Likewise his research provides new understanding into what kinds of marketing and advertising are likely to be effective.

According to Dr. Saad, successful products cater to our biological heritage, and successful marketing and advertising send messages our biological make-up and DNA make us already prone to accept – that speak to our human nature. In a word, he says, “The genes hold consumer behavior on a leash. “

Among the key biological imperatives important to marketers are these two: our drive to survive and to reproduce. We can see the effect of the survival imperative in our food preferences for fat and calories. Dr. Saad notes that the top ten restaurants in the world (mainly fast food burger outlets) deliver a product laden with fat and calories, catering to our drive to bulk up and avoid starvation during periods of food scarcity that our biological ancestors experienced.

The drive to reproduce ourselves affects our consumer choices in myriad ways, including the cars we drive and the cosmetics we use. Dr. Saad explains that buying and driving a Ferrari or any expensive sports car is the human male’s equivalent of displaying a peacock’s tail in order to attract females. His research has also shown that women are become more concerned with beauty products and services, during the fertile phase of their cycles, in an unconscious biological drive to improve their position in the mating market. Hormones, then, in both men and women, affect consumer behavior.

These are just a few of the examples Dr. Saad draws from to show that, as he puts it, “Nothing in consumer behavior makes sense except in the light of evolution.” He further shows that aspects of consumer behavior governed by evolutionary / biological forces are exactly the same everywhere in the world. They transcend culture and time and are part of a shared biological heritage.

Speaking
Linking our innate biological drives to our choices as consumers, Dr. Saad answers the question “why we buy” in a fascinating, provocative, and entertaining manner. He is an experienced speaker who had delighted audiences in both popular, business, and academic venues around the world. His TEDxConcordia talk can be accessed here.

Writings
Gad Saad is the author of over seventy-five articles and papers on marketing, advertising, psychology, economics and more, with a focus on the connection between evolution, biology, and consumer behavior.

His books include:
The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature
The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption
Evolutionary Psychology in the Business Sciences

Gad also writes a blog for Psychology Today. His posts have received over three million views. In August 2016, a global ranking came out that placed Gad at #5 of the Top 100 scientists to follow on Twitter.

His work has been presented and discussed in print and web media throughout the world, including The Economist, Men’s Health, the New York Times, the Guardian, and scientific journals: Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Consumer Psychology, and Personality and Individual Differences. The extensive coverage Saad’s work has garnered have resulted in him being named “Newsmaker of the Week of Concordia University four years running. Gad has made countless appearances on very high-profile shows including Joe Rogan, Dave Rubin Report, Sam Harris's podcast, and many others.

Credentials

  • Professor of Marketing and Research Chair in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences and Darwinian Consumption, Concordia University
  • Ph.D, Marketing, M.S. Management, Cornell University
  • M.B.A., Marketing, McGill University
  • B.Sc., Mathematics and Computer Science, McGill University

Books

The Consuming Instinct

What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature

Gad Saad

In this highly informative and entertaining book, the founder of the vibrant new field of evolutionary consumption illuminates the relevance of our biological heritage to our daily lives as consumers. While culture is important, the author shows that innate evolutionary forces deeply influence the foods we eat, the gifts we offer, the cosmetics and clothing styles we choose to make ourselves more attractive to potential mates, and even the cultural products that stimulate our imaginations (such as art, music, and religion).

The book demonstrates that most acts of consumption can be mapped onto four key Darwinian drives — namely, survival (we prefer foods high in calories); reproduction (we use products as sexual signals); kin selection (we naturally exchange gifts with family members); and reciprocal altruism (we enjoy offering gifts to close friends). The author further highlights the analogous behaviors that exist between human consumers and a wide range of animals.

For anyone interested in the biological basis of human behavior or simply in what makes consumers tick — marketing professionals, advertisers, psychology mavens, and consumers themselves — this is a fascinating read.

Prometheus Books; First Edition edition (June 21, 2011)

Video

Excerpts

Review

The Consuming InstinctBrand Genetics Blog

Praise

"What's your guilty pleasure? Junk food? Fast cars? Champagne? To shop until you drop? What makes consumers tick? Psychologist Gad Saad writes of the innate needs, preferences, and drives that spur many of our most treasured appetites and behaviors — all soft-wired into the human brain in deep history for purposes of survival and reproduction. We are natural born consumers. And as Saad elegantly examines our daily rituals and tastes (and he gives us troves of fascinating data from around the world), he brings our common human heritage to life. I'll never look at my high-heeled shoes or a buffet the same way again. It's a smart read for all who sell, all who buy, and all who really want to understand others and themselves. You may even come away thinking: I consume, therefore I am."
— Helen Fisher, PhD, Biological Anthropologist, Rutgers University and author of Why Him? Why Her?

"I urge you to consume The Consuming Instinct! Using cogent examples from popular culture deftly mixed with an expert's grasp of modern evolutionary biology, Dr. Saad shows how our biology underlies our consumer choices. Like nothing else on the market today, it will help you understand why we purchase and pay attention as we do. Indeed, never has science for the lay-person been presented more cogently or accessibly when it comes to our daily economic activities."
— David P. Barash, professor of psychology, University of Washington and co-author of Payback: Why We Retaliate, Redirect Aggression and Take Revenge

"Juicy burgers, Ferraris, pornography, and gift giving are the stuff of human nature. Evolutionary psychologist Gad Saad tells us just how and why, and much more, in The Consuming Instinct. With wit, charm, and crystal clarity, Saad lays bare the evolutionary underpinnings of consumerism."
— Todd K. Shackelford, Ph.D., professor and Chair of Psychology, Oakland University, editor, Evolutionary Psychology (epjournal.net)

"What the jacket does not say is just how entertaining, enlightening and informative this book is as Saad reveals the reasons behind consumers' preferences for fat burgers, fancy cars and the trendiest fashion. By putting forward the idea of evolutionary economics, Saad opens up new concepts in marketing as well as a much clearer understanding of why we respond to certain products the way we do. For those curious about the reasons people spend their hard-earned money on the things they do, presented in an understandable format then look no further."
— Monsters and Critics

Evolutionary Psychology in the Business Sciences

Gad Saad

All individuals who operate in the business sphere, whether as consumers, employers, employees, entrepreneurs, or financial traders to name a few constituents, share a common biological heritage and are defined by a universal human nature. As such, it is surprising that so few business scholars have incorporated biological and evolutionary-informed theories within their conceptual toolboxes. This edited book addresses this lacuna by culling chapters at the intersection of the evolutionary behavioral sciences and specific business contexts including in marketing, consumer behavior, advertising, innovation and creativity, intertemporal choice, negotiations, competition and cooperation in organizational settings, sex differences in workplace patterns, executive leadership, business ethics, store design, behavioral decision making, and electronic communication. To reword the famous aphorism of T. G. Dobzhansky, nothing in business makes sense except in the light of evolution.

Springer; 2011 edition (July 19, 2011)

The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption

Marketing and Consumer Psychology Series

Gad Saad

The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption by Gad Saad applies Darwinian principles in understanding our consumption patterns and the products of popular culture that most appeal to individuals. The first and only scholarly work to do so, this is a captivating study of the adaptive reasons behind our behaviors, cognitions, emotions, and perceptions. This lens of analysis suggests how we come to make selections such as choosing a mate, the foods we eat, the gifts that we offer, and more. It also highlights how numerous forms of dark side consumption, including pathological gambling, compulsive buying, pornographic addiction, and eating disorders, possess a Darwinian etiology.

Engaging and diverse in scope, the book maps consumption phenomena onto four key Darwinian modules: survival, reproduction, kin selection, and reciprocal altruism. As an interesting proposal, the author suggests that media and advertising contents exist in their particular forms because they are a reflection of our evolved human nature — negating the notion that they exist through the reverse causal link, as proposed by social constructivists. The link between evolutionary theory and consumption behaviors is detailed throughout the book via an examination of (among many others): appearance-enhancing products and services; financial and physical risk-taking; use of sexual imagery and the depictions of women in advertising; and television programs, movies, songs, music videos, literature, religion, and art. The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption will appeal to evolutionists who desire to explore new areas wherein evolutionary theory can be applied; consumer and marketing scholars who wish to learn about the ways in which biological-and evolutionary-based theorizing can be infused into the consumer behavior/marketing/advertising disciplines; as well as other interdisciplinary scholars interested in gaining knowledge about the power of evolutionary theory in explaining a wide range of behavioral phenomena.

Psychology Press; 1 edition (February 5, 2007)

Videos

How Political Correctness Limits the Free Exchange of Ideas on Campus

Interview: Sam Harris, Atheism, Political Correctness | The Rubin Report

The Consuming Instinct | TEDxConcordia

Consumerism, Sex, Advertising, and Human Nature | reason.tv