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Trait-signaling Instincts Can Drive Conspicuous Consumption—But That It Not The Only Option
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Business

Social competition and sexual selection have shaped human instincts for showing off our mental traits (e.g. intelligence. personality traits, moral virtues) to mates, rivals, friends, peers, and other groups. In modern capitalism, such trait-display instincts are channeled mostly into educational credentialism, workaholic careerism, and runaway consumerism, with often harmful effects on environments, societies, families, and fertility patterns. My talk offers a biological signaling perspective on the behavior of modern consumers, workers, investors, and business leaders, and suggests some practical ways to nudge our trait-display instincts in different directions. For example, we might switch from conspicuous consumption as the main ‘signaling equilibrium’ to a broader combination of green consumerism, ethical investment, evidence-based charity, social media activity, virtual consumption, and augmented-reality signaling. Changing our trait-signaling strategies can be a powerful tool in ethical system design.

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