Consumer Goods and Human Habitat Selection



Natural selection is the process through which populations of living organisms adapt and change. Individuals in a population are naturally variable, meaning that they are all different in some ways. This variation means that some individuals have traits better suited to the environment than others. Humans are animals whose body and minds have been shaped by natural selection.

Consequently, an evolutionary perspective promises to provide insight into human preferences, thought processes and behaviours. This is called evolutionary psychology. Much of the work in evolutionary psychology is relevant to consumer behaviour.

At Uncommon Sense, we use a combination of evolutionary consumer psychology and best-in-class digital expertise to create marketing campaigns that target innate needs, preferences and drives.

The team at Uncommon Sense have already provided an introduction to evolutionary psychology and its implications for consumer behaviour.

Here is an illustrative theory within evolutionary psychology, specific to habitat preferences and a discussion of its implications for consumer behaviour and marketing.

Environments differ from one another with respect to the quantity and quality of resources like food, water, and shelter that they provide as well as with respect to the presence of predators and other natural enemies. Thus, the choice of an environment in which to live (i.e., a habitat) is likely to have a significant impact on the survival and reproduction of individuals. This suggests that natural selection would favour those members of a species that possessed an innate preference for the types of environments in which the species prospers (Lynn, 1999)

Anthropological evidence suggests that early hominid (a primate within an animal group that includes humans and their ancient upright-walking relatives) evolution took place in the tropical continent of Africa.

Of the various tropical habitats available to these early hominids, the savanna provided the most hospitable environment because: (1) its grasses, roots, tubers, relatively short trees and grazing animals provided the most readily available food, (2) its open country afforded the greatest visibility for hunting and for detecting predators, and (3) its predators, who were relatively poor tree climbers, were the most easily escaped (Orians 1980). Thus, natural selection would have favored an innate preference among humans for savanna like environments, especially those also containing plentiful water for drinking and cliffs and caves for shelter.

Consistent with the existence of such an adaptation, research has found that: (1) people express a preference for savanna-like environments-i.e., environments with scattered trees or groups of trees and even or fine ground textures, (2) savanna preferences are stronger among younger people, whose habitat preferences have been less modified by experience, and (3) savanna preferences are fairly consistent across cultures and geographic regions (Balling and Falk 1982).

Many consumer goods and services, such as campsites, golf courses, restaurant tables, hotel rooms, apartments, houses, etc., are valued in part for their settings and/or views.

Evolutionary theory concerning human habitat selection suggests that consumers should particularly enjoy settings and views that are savanna-like and that include lakes or rivers. Such settings and views should command higher prices and be in higher demand than other settings and views. There is substantial evidence that people do prefer savanna-like scenes that contain water, but there is little quantitative research on the market value of such scenes and settings.

Evolutionary psychologists search for links between the adaptive problems faced by our evolutionary ancestors and the perceptual, cognitive and motivational mechanisms underlying our behavior.

Here at Uncommon Sense we search for links between the adaptive problems faced by our evolutionary ancestors and the perceptual, cognitive and motivational mechanisms underlying our consumer behaviour. It is worth considering the habitat selection of humans when marketing various consumer goods.


Balling, John D. and John H. Falk (1982), “Development of Visual Preference for Natural Environments

Lynn, Michael et al. (1999), “Evolutionary Perspectives on Consumer Behavior: an Introduction”

Orians, Gordon H. (1980), “Habitat Selection: General Theory and Applications to Human Behavior,” in The Evolution of Human Sexual Behavior, ed. Joan Lockard. New York: Elsevier, 49-66.

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