Why We What We Want

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Our consciousness is an extraordinary thing. It’s what separates us from other species and enables us to not only make choices, but feel aware of them. However, this awareness has led to desires that reach beyond our instincts. Primally, we desire food, water and shelter. So what makes us want money, an iPhone and jewelry? Whether or not these things serve any survival purposes has become irrelevant; we want things.

It works like this:

Instinctually, we desire objects that serve a purpose. No one wants a fork when they’re eating soup. Our ability to imagine a result leads to wants; we want electricity to have light, so that we can read, so that we can learn, so that we can work, so that we can make money, so that we can buy electricity. Most people equate an object’s worth with its purpose.

It feels like this:

When we’re cold, we desire a sweater. When we’re hot, we desire water. We need these things to survive. However, we also desire a television, a good book and a fast car. Why is that? Feelings aren’t just physical, they’re emotional too. The prospect of sensual and entertainment value can make an object – like that new DVD player – highly desirable. They won’t help us survive, but they’ll make us happy, so we want them. 

It looks like this:

Beauty is part of our culture, and we like beautiful things. We will choose the pretty shirt over the ugly one, though their functions are the same. Over time, our desires for beauty have evolved from the useful to the purposeless. A great painting is beautiful and therefore desirable, though it serves no real purpose.

It rates like this: 

Why do we choose the name brand over the generic? Their ingredients may be the same, their functions might be identical, but we still prefer one over the other. Here, instead of being attracted to the usefulness of an object, we’re attracted to its perceived value. Cost, authenticity and rarity are all things that don’t affect an objects performance, but we want them anyway. Our opinions are influenced by popular opinion and make us desire the desirable.

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