Aaron Ahuvia psychology of love

Audio Episode


In the interview we discussed the psychology of love and brand love, emphasizing the brain's response to products and people. We also touched on the impact of social media on relationships and the importance of in-person interactions. Then we discussed the difference between face-to-face and online interactions, highlighting the need for empathy and compassion. Aaron mentions an organization called Braver Angels that promotes productive conversations between liberals and conservatives. The negative impact of anger and animosity on society was emphasized, along with the need for emotional intelligence. The meeting also discussed the need for new behaviors that align with the changing world and the importance of questioning our own beliefs. The concept of brand love was explored, and the importance of understanding the target audience in marketing was emphasized. Aaron mentioned his book and blog on consumer psychology and human nature. The meeting concluded with a call to love our neighbors and information on how to contact Aaron. Action items 1. Research and explore the organization Braver Angels and its initiatives for promoting productive conversations between liberals and conservatives. 2. Develop strategies to promote empathy and compassion in both face-to-face and online interactions. 3. Investigate the negative impact of anger and animosity on society and develop ways to counteract it. 4. Enhance emotional intelligence skills within the team and encourage its application in daily interactions. 5. Reflect on personal beliefs and question them in order to adapt to the changing world. 6. Conduct market research to better understand the target audience and their preferences in order to effectively market products. 7. Explore Aaron's book and blog on consumer psychology and human nature for further insights. 8. Encourage team members to love their neighbors and promote acts of kindness and support within the community.

While still in high school, Aaron Ahuvia began taking philosophy classes at the University of Michigan and later went on to graduate cum laude from Michigan with a BA in philosophy. Post college he applied his interest in workplace democracy by working at the financial consulting firm Duff and Phelps in Chicago where he assisted with their nation leading practice of helping companies create ESOPS (Employee Stock Ownership Plans) through which the company’s employees came to own the firm. While at Duff and Phelps he enrolled in the MBA program at Northwestern’s Kellogg school of business. At the suggestion of one of his professors, he applied to and was accepted into Kellogg’s PhD program in Marketing. There, her worked with marketing legend Philipp Kotler and helped Kotler revise one of his famous textbooks. He also worked with Professor Mara Adelman on research into the then new phenomenon of singles ads and dating services, publishing five seminal papers in this area and landing him on the Oprah Winfrey show. This research on dating required him to become an expert on the psychology of love. For his dissertation, he took this expertise on love and applied it to investigating peoples’ love of brands and products, as well as other objects and activities.
He was then hired by his alma matter, the University of Michigan, and began his career as an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Ross School of Business. There, his research expanded to look at how our happiness is impacted by our consumer behavior with a particular focus on income and materialism. He also published widely cited papers on qualitative research methodology. Later he moved to the University of Michigan’s Dearborn campus where he is now the Richard E. Czarnecki Endowed Collegiate Professor of Marketing. He also holds an appointment as a Professor at the University of Michigan Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.
Professor Ahuvia does research, teaches and consults for governments, nonprofits and corporations in China, Denmark, Oman, Finland, Poland, Morocco, France, Pakistan, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Portugal, Rwanda, Singapore, Slovakia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Yemen, and was awarded the first US government grant project in Libya after the lifting of sanctions.
Aaron Ahuvia has two grown sons and lives in Ann Arbor with his wife Aura Ahuvia, who is a Rabbi (“The Psychedelic Rabbi”) and an expert on the use of psychedelics to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

Aaron Ahuvia

[00:00:00] Aaron Ahuvia: Can I push back on that a little bit? Um,

[00:00:02] Ed Watters: Sure.

[00:00:03] Aaron Ahuvia: Because I agree with most of what you said, but there's one phrase in there that people, busy, I think it's a real opportunity of like a learning moment here. You said, If I don't feel right about it, um, there's probably something wrong with it. I have a hunch that it's almost the opposite.

[00:00:25] If you feel really right about it, there's probably something wrong with it. And if you hear something on the news and it just makes you feel great, oh my God, me and my side, we're the righteous victims and they're all a bunch of jerks, et cetera, et cetera. And now I have to get, you know, if it gives all of those emotional rewards,

[00:00:52] it's probably designed to give emotional rewards and not designed to tell the truth. When you hear the truth, it often makes you uncomfortable. When something is the truth, and you hear it, it does not fit well intuitively. It does not necessarily make you feel good about yourself. Because

[00:01:12] Ed Watters: That's right.

[00:01:13] Aaron Ahuvia: every person in every group, we all have flaws. And feeling good is about papering over those flaws a lot of the time.

[00:01:27] Ed Watters: To overcome, you must educate. Educate not only yourself, but educate anyone seeking to learn. We are all Dead America, we can all learn something. To learn, we must challenge what we already understand. The way we do that is through conversation. Sometimes we have conversations with others, however, some of the best conversations happen with ourself. Reach out and challenge yourself; let's dive in and learn something right now.

[00:02:19] Today, we're speaking with Professor Aaron Ahuvia. He is the Richard E. Czarnecki Endowed Collegiate Professor of Marketing at the University of Michigan- Dearborn College of Business. Aaron, could you please introduce yourself, let people know just a little bit more about you and your background, please?

[00:02:42] Aaron Ahuvia: Sure. So, uh, as you said, I'm Aaron Ahuvia. Uh, professionally, I'm a professor of marketing, but a little bit of an unusual professor of marketing. Um, I actually, uh, my undergraduate degree is in philosophy and there are three sort of major areas that I research. Um, I was at a conference, uh, about 10, 15 years ago, a design conference,

[00:03:13] and someone there asked me, What are you going to be talking about? And I said, I'd be talking about the psychology of love. And he thought that this was a crazy, he didn't think I was serious. He thought I was just, must be joking. Why would I be talking about that at a design conference? So he said, Oh, yes.

[00:03:29] Peace, love, and happiness. And it occurred to me that, my God, that's exactly what I do. My research, it's all, you know, it's not in that order, it's kind of love first, then happiness, then peace. But you know, that's, that's basically what I do. Um, and I look at that, uh through the lens of consumer behavior and sometimes through marketing. Um, I actually have a blog called The Peace, Love, and Happiness, (And Marketing) blog.

[00:03:59] So, uh, yeah, so we're going to be talking about, uh, the psychology of love mainly, but I'm sure we'll get into some other things. And one of the things that you were saying to me before we went, uh, started recording this was, you were talking about, you know, the importance of conversation, how conversation is how we heal things in the world

[00:04:23] and I'm also a big believer in that. And, and a lot of my work on the peace front has been trying to get different groups of people to talk to each other, um, but doing it in a very careful way. Because if you just throw them in a room together, they'll come out and madder than they were when they went in.

[00:04:38] Ed Watters: Yes.

[00:04:40] Aaron Ahuvia: You have to structure things the right way. Um, but if you do that, you, you know, you could have profound, uh, effects that way. So I'm very much on board for our, uh, our conversation and anything we can, we can do there.

[00:04:53] Ed Watters: Yeah. I love what you're doing out there. You know, people don't get into their own psyche a lot. But everything we do is psychological and sometimes it's subconscious that we're dealing with. And a lot of what you deal with is that subconscious realm of the mind where you're going to grab them from marketing basically. But you talk about brand love, what is brand love to you?

[00:05:27] Aaron Ahuvia: Okay, so brand love is the term that sort of, I helped popularize with some publications. And it's basically when people love a product, or a brand, or a service. Um, one of the things I study is when people love things other than people. So it could be an object, could be something you made yourself, it could be an activity, a place you love, nature, all kinds of stuff. Um, but if you look in particular at, uh, products, and brands, and services, then, then we call that brand love. And basically that's

[00:06:06] just the slice of that research that marketers and nonprofits care about because it has to do with, you know, how they can hopefully better serve people and, and make activities or products that people genuinely will love and cherish.

[00:06:24] Ed Watters: Yeah, well, actually, that, that hosts whole psychology, it drives the world right now. Look at Coca Cola and their marketing and the psychology that they use behind that, it's immense. So dealing with that, it's kind of fascinating when you look at it because people are oblivious to what they're seeing and the subliminal messages that are being placed in their mind about the products that we already love.

[00:07:04] You know, that's kind of the thing that I find fascinating. I saw where you were saying a lot of this derives from things that we already love. And, so that's learned behavior then. So from an infancy state, you're learning about Coca Cola and Pepsi and all of these by, oh yeah, that's delicious and your mind just rolls with that. So what is the deep psychology behind that when you, when you look at the love of things versus the love of people?

[00:07:45] Aaron Ahuvia: All right.

[00:07:45] Ed Watters: And there, there is a difference, correct?

[00:07:48] Aaron Ahuvia: Oh, yeah. There's definitely a difference, there's definitely a difference. And so to, you know, to go on to the last part of that, um, where you say, you know, What's the difference between the love of things and the love of people?

[00:08:00] There is a difference, but, um, in a, in a sense that it's less than people would think. Because, and this is, I think, the secret of it all, the interesting secret of it all, when people genuinely love an activity, or an object, or a place, or whatever, it's because their brain is treating it the way your brain treats a person.

[00:08:29] So, your brain, to a really surprising degree, is, has evolved specifically for thinking about people. We had, you know, the earlier development of our brain when we were animals before we became humans, right? Um, that brain really evolved first, primarily to regulate your body, to take care of your heartbeat, and your breathing, and all the stuff that's going on in your body and to regulate that.

[00:09:03] And then it also evolved to like find food, find a mate, and that sort of basic stuff. But there came a point where human beings started to develop a much larger brain than most other animals. And the reason we developed this larger brain, uh, is because it allowed us to work better as teams, to have more complicated forms of social organization, and to work as a, as a team.

[00:09:32] And of course, a big, highly coordinated, well organized team beats a little, poorly coordinated, poorly organized team. Um, so this became a really big competitive advantage. And as a result of that, your brain is like purpose built. Maybe that's, you know, I know my, my fellow evolutionary psychologists wouldn't like that phrase, purpose. But you would think of it metaphorically as if it's purpose built for thinking about people.

[00:09:59] So [00:10:00] if you see two objects and you want, and you sort of recognize them as being similar, your brain will be processing that visual information in one part of the brain. Whereas if you look at a person's face, to recognize that, your brain will actually process that visual information in its own separate place dedicated just for looking at faces. And if you see a person performing some action, um, versus a machine performing the exact same action, your brain will process, think about the person in one way and think about the machine in a different way, right? And it often, to some extent, in different parts of the brain, right?

[00:10:44] I don't want to give you the idea that your brain is sort of hermetically sealed into these different places, but it does activate to a greater degree when it's a person, certain sort of social parts of the brain. So that's all a long way of saying your brain knows the difference between a person and a thing. And it's really important to your brain,

[00:11:05] that difference is super important, and it thinks about them very differently. And you know that because we have this word, um, which is to objectify a person. And what does it mean to objectify a person? It means to think about that person as if they were a thing, right? Well, if that's a word, it must mean there is some way that we think about things that's different from the way we think about persons, right?

[00:11:32] Because otherwise you could think about a person the way that you think about a thing. Um, whenever you're loving a thing, your love is reserved for people, pretty much, and so it was, it evolved for, for to love other people. It didn't evolve to love your cell phone, there weren't cell phones at the time.

[00:11:54] Um, so when today we love our cell phone or something else, our brain is treating that as if it was a person and applying the sort of human thought processes and emotional processes to this thing. I've talked, that's a very long wind up, um, there's a number of different ways that that happens. And they're, and they're kind of interesting in themselves, and we can talk about that too in a minute or two.

[00:12:24] Ed Watters: Well, I find that interesting that it segued into the social atmosphere there, because a lot of what we do now is online. And we perceive things different when we're online than face to face and it kind of emboldens us and gives us more will to stand up to things in a different way. What, what do you find in your research about that? Because I find this Facebook, the likes and the pings, every time you go off of Facebook you get a ping on your phone. And what does that do? Makes you pick that phone back up because of the craving there. Right. Could you talk to us a little bit about that?

[00:13:17] Aaron Ahuvia: Well, one of the things that social media has done that is, um, social media has a lot of good things about it, you know, but one of the problems with social media is it gave us a way to publicly measure people's social status in a really clear really public way.

[00:13:41] How many friends do you have? How many followers do you have? And there's two different aspects to social relationships. One aspect is how close are we? How, how intimate are we in that, in that kind of a relationship? And the other aspect is social status. Who outranks who, who's getting more respect? You know, who, who's more getting more adulation and, and praise and whatnot, uh, from other people.

[00:14:12] And both of these are central aspects of human nature. You are never going to completely get rid of them. I'm told that if you spend enough time in the mountains in meditation, You know, maybe you can, you can get rid of the whole sort of social status focus to a certain extent. But, you know, short of, short of going off to the mountains for 10, 000 hours of meditation, you're not gonna, you're not gonna get rid of that.

[00:14:44] Um, so they're both real parts of what it means to be human. That said, you can, and I hope will, just put the whole social status thing on the back burner and try and focus more on what makes your relationships close and pleasant and rewarding. And put a little less attention into what, who outranks who, and how much social status you have, and who's cooler than who, and all that stuff.

[00:15:13] Uh, and there's a lot more to say on that. But I will make this point that for most people, if you're focused on that sort of social competition, people who are highly focused on that tend to be less happy and less well psychologically adjusted than people who put their focus on how do I make this a more close and pleasant and rewarding relationship.

[00:15:40] Um, furthermore, and this is the interesting part, that's what I think, to me, the surprising part, if someone has a goal of like, Oh, I'm going to be famous, I'm going to get 10, 000 followers on whatever, if they make progress, if they make that goal, they do not become happier because they've made that goal, they just, uh, pick the next goal and move and move. Whereas if somebody has a goal of I'm going to, you know, develop a friendship,

[00:16:18] I'm lonely. I'm sitting here alone at night, you know, playing video games. This is stupid, why don't I go make some friends. And they do make some friends and they succeed at that goal. They will be happier and they will be lastingly happier. So long as those friendships are intact and working, they'll stay happier,

[00:16:35] right? That doesn't go away the same way. And again, if you want more on maybe why that is I can get into that a little bit more. But for now, that's something to remember that close relationships pay happiness dividends in a way that competing for social status does not normally do.

[00:16:58] Ed Watters: Yeah, I think there's a lot of meaningful connection in that, you know, when you can actually physically share something right next to somebody and see them in their entirety. We see our, uh, bust up, you know, here on zoom normally and we miss a lot of the body language that is actually happening that we absorb in the natural world.

[00:17:29] Aaron Ahuvia: Right.

[00:17:30] Ed Watters: So it's fascinating to me as I watch this evolution of the social networks compared to what they used to be before Facebook, before the Internet, you know, it was a totally different thing. You would find groups gathering at the river to, you know, swim, talk, and just share that social connection.

[00:17:59] Aaron Ahuvia: Right.

[00:17:59] Ed Watters: You don't really see it. You see it in a way through the tribes that are kind of gathering on the internet and, and I, I see a more malicious intent on the internet than I did in the real world. Is there a psychology behind that?

[00:18:23] Aaron Ahuvia: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. There's, um, when people are face to face there are, in sort of, evolved brain mechanisms that keep, kick in for most of us. You know, there's a few people, if you are sociopathic, you don't really have these brain mechanisms. But for like people who have normal psychology that kick in and they're, they say, Be nice to this person, be polite to this person.

[00:18:57] You, you can get rid of them and there are situations you can get in a horrible fight with someone, but for the most part, you're going to try to be nice to, you know, and get along with that person. But when you're just typing something into a computer, people can be awful. Um, I heard a story on, uh, it's a podcast about this person who was frequently harassed by internet trolls.

[00:19:24] Uh, I think it was a woman, might have been, it was a guy. He was a guy, was frequently harassed by Internet trolls and decided that he would have this project of tracking them down and talking to them on the phone and meeting with them if possible. And what he found was that every time he managed to meet with them,

[00:19:45] it completely changed. These people who were, who were saying that they were gonna like go murder his dog or whatever it was, as soon as they got their face in the same room, they were like, you know, I'm really sorry I said that stuff. [00:20:00] That was awful. And they've just become regular people.

[00:20:07] Ed Watters: Yeah, I find that interesting. It puts you in check pretty quick. And, and our, our society is really needing more of this connection and conversation about what is actually happening to the ecology of our union and, you know, the, the world in a whole. So, how can we put more empathy into our relations online, especially online, because that's really where a lot of people spend a lot of their time. How do we put compassion and that needed emotion into our world?

[00:20:58] Aaron Ahuvia: That's a, that's a good question. And honestly, I don't know, I don't know the answer to that. I want to tell people, Spend less time online, you know, like,

[00:21:07] Ed Watters: Yeah, it works.

[00:21:09] Aaron Ahuvia: it works. You know, I'm reminded of, of this story, it's in a very short little book, I can't quite remember what, I think the book might be called The Hole or something like this. And to give you the reader's digest version, it's like, you know, day one, I walked down the street, there was a hole, I fell in the hole, it wasn't my fault. Who would have thought there was a hole? Day two, I walked down the street, um, I was distracted, I fell in the hole again, boy, I feel silly, you know, what happened there? You know, day three, I walked on, it goes on this way and there's, the person's trying, like, I tried to jump over the hole but I couldn't jump far, far enough and I fell in, etc, etc. And then it finally says, you know, day whatever, I walked down a different street. I, you know, I just stopped that. Why am I walking down the street if it's got this hole in the middle?

[00:21:59] Ed Watters: Exactly.

[00:22:01] Aaron Ahuvia: So, um, that's, okay, look, let's try and, and, and bring back some, you know, a little bit more time in face to face relationships and just get out. You know, if there's a hole on that street, you keep falling, then don't go down that street. But I will plug an organization here that, um, I work with called Braver Angels. And, uh, it used to be, some of you might know it as Better Angels. But, uh, frankly, it turned out that

[00:22:34] there was some other organization that had trademarked Better, again, Better Angels before we did, and so we changed it to Braver Angels. Which is actually, um, a nice name in the sense that it's accurate. It does require a certain amount of bravery to, you know, participate in this kind of organization. But it's an organization that gets together, um, liberals and conservatives,

[00:22:59] and gets them to actually meet each other and talk with each other face to face about things. And it does it in a way that people don't get into these flaming huge debates. And people get to speak about, you know, themselves and their experience. And one of the things we've learned is if you make the topic of the conversation, who is right,

[00:23:25] you are going to have nothing but a fight. But if you make the topic of the conversation, who are you? How do you feel? What kind of experiences did you have in your life that led you to see the world the way you do? That people don't fight with each other the same way and they come back, people come out of these meetings just glowing and optimistic.

[00:23:53] They say, you know, I, I went into that meeting thinking, you know, the world is coming to an end. And I came out with a whole new sense of, you know, possibility about the people that I live with in this country. Um,

[00:24:08] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:24:09] Aaron Ahuvia: so that can be really powerful. Before that, my prior work on this, I was doing the same thing in the Jewish community. Um, between, uh, members of the Jewish community who were sort of very hawkish on Israel and other members of the Jewish community who were more conciliatory and wanted to work towards a negotiated, uh, solution in the Middle East.

[00:24:41] And we found very much the same thing, um, that you got those people together and it relieved a lot of the tensions. Uh, and, you know, what's, what's nice about that is that I think a lot of the practical problems, like we can't get basic stuff done in this country in terms of the government. We've, we've got serious problems and we can't pass legislation that addresses those problems very well.

[00:25:15] Uh, and a lot of the reason we have that is because people on the political extremes feed off of hatred and animosity. You know, they've got a system where if they can rile up their base and just get their people madder and madder at the other guys, um, then they can get them out to vote, and they can get donations, and they can get money from them, and all sorts of things like this that they want.

[00:25:45] But every time you do that, it, there's a cost to the country as a whole. One of the best predictors of economic growth, if you look at different countries and why some grow faster than others, why some have become wealthy and others have remained poor, one of the very best predictors of this is what they call social trust.

[00:26:08] And it's just the idea that I can trust my neighbor. You know, they're not, I can trust the law, I can trust the court system in this country, and I can trust my neighbor. They're probably a decent person and they're not out to skin me alive. And when you have that kind of basic trust in society, everything functions better.

[00:26:29] It's like, it's like a machine that's a well oiled machine and you take out that kind of social trust, it's like taking all the lubrication out of that machine and everything freezes up and it doesn't work. And so every time people gin up anger and animosity at other people, um, it costs the society as a whole.

[00:26:56] Now, I know that some people are going to be listening to this and they're going to be thinking, but wait, there are times when you really should be angry and I totally agree with that. I think there are times when you really should be angry. And, you know, absolutely. But we need to be really responsible

[00:27:15] in making sure that, that when we're getting angry, it is one of those times. Because we're not just angry when some really huge issue that, you know, comes up, we're angry all the time about everything and it doesn't need to be that way.

[00:27:31] Ed Watters: Yeah, emotional intelligence. You know, we really need to work on it, that's for sure. The animosities that, I notice our media, it gets pretty bad at times and we really have to be able to decide for ourself that we want to turn that type of attitude off. And I like that you're part of groups like that where you're bringing the sides together face to face. Because potlucks and, you know, bingo parties, they tend to be more fun and a lot more gets done in an atmosphere as, friendly attitudes around.

[00:28:21] So I, I really, I'm, I'm kind of ashamed that our nation has displayed the animosities towards one another in the way they have in the last, you know, 12 years. It's kind of, we need brave hearts to stand up and clear minds with objectives that are clear to really settle the mood down and stop throwing fuel on the fire.

[00:28:53] Aaron Ahuvia: Absolutely.

[00:28:54] Ed Watters: We don't need that anymore. And, and a lot of what you do is related to getting that done through our, our social media channels, advertising, all of that. What is the best steps right now that we can take to apply those psychological steps in our message that everybody can display a better attitude of forgiveness, and acceptance, and whatever else? What, what is the direction we need to take?

[00:29:34] Aaron Ahuvia: So, I'll say, that's a, that's a really good one. To the extent that we can find, and emphasize, and focus a little bit more on our commonalities, because we have many. If you, if you want to recognize how similar Americans are to each other, just go to someplace really different. [00:30:00] Um, I've had the opportunity to, uh, work on economic development and other projects in Yemen, in Kazakhstan, in Jordan, um, all over the world.

[00:30:15] And when you go to those places and you meet another American there, it doesn't matter how different they are from you, you realize, you know, how similar you are to each other. So I think a little more emphasis on that, on kind of the similarities. Um, and I think that there also needs to be, and this is, this is difficult to do,

[00:30:41] um, I know how difficult because I've done it. It's pretty difficult to do. But people need to work within their own community to try and create more sort of informed, rational discourse instead of just, you know, fear mongering and hate mongering. And it's very easy for people who are, say, liberals to point at the conservatives and say, They need to stop this and for people who are conservatives to point at liberals and say, They need to stop this.

[00:31:14] But what we really need are people who will talk to their own friends who have some credibility in their own communities and say, we need to stop this. Uh, you know, and that's, and that's hard to do. People do not like to do that. Um, and because we are, if we get back to some of the evolution stuff as humans, we've evolved to put group cohesion first.

[00:31:41] That's, you know, that's really important. That, that is at a time when everything was kind of life and death and people lived a lot less, had much shorter lives than we do now for all kinds of reasons. Group cohesion was extremely important and people evolved to put group cohesion ahead of the truth a lot of the times. So you might think, well, you know, humans would have evolved to always understand the truth. That the more accurate your, your views of the world were, the better you could solve problems and the better off you'd be.

[00:32:22] And that's true, you know, just by itself. If you're only asking, you're only asking that question, who's going to solve a problem better, the person who has an accurate view of the world versus someone who's misinformed, well, accuracy is going to help you solve the problem. But if you open up your, your perspective and you say, All right, um, let's, let's think about this group, you know, who's going to be better off in that group? The person who is very clearly, uh, supports the leadership of the group, right?

[00:32:53] And very clearly puts their group first ahead of other things. That person is going to get rewarded by that group. That's going to, you know, that's going to be a big advantage to that person. And so you say, Okay, well, if, what if there's a situation where there's a trade off where, you know, the leader of the group is spewing some crap, right?

[00:33:17] And you've got a choice. You can, you can go against the leader of the group and say what you think is true, which will help you see the world correctly, or you can support the leader of the group and, you know, not worry about that other so much. Well, I think looking around at just the way humans actually behave, we can guess pretty clearly that it turned out that supporting the leader of the group was a strategy that paid off a lot. Because that's a strategy that evolved to be the normal way that humans behave in those situations.

[00:33:54] And we don't do it, sadly, we don't do it by knowing we're doing it. We don't do it by saying, I know that what that leader of the group says is true, is saying is false, but I'm going to support them anyway. We can do that, a few of us do that. But that's not the way the human brain evolved. The human brain evolved to be, Oh, the leader of the group is saying this,

[00:34:17] I'm gonna believe that. I'm gonna find a way to believe that, right? Even if it, even if it doesn't seem to be true, I will talk to people and I'll think about it long and hard until I can believe that, right? And that's, and that's kind of, uh, our evolutionary history. But there's a lot of ways in which our evolutionary history isn't serving us.

[00:34:42] And we need to find other ways of behaving that will let us prosper as individuals and as a community, you know, even more than we would if we sort of just went with our emotional reflexes on things all the time. Because we live in a world where things have changed. Um, and we, we need to find ways of changing along with it.

[00:35:11] Ed Watters: Yeah, I was, I was speaking with Sam George just a few days ago about the discommunication that is in the world and how our brain responds to an email that's not returned with, uh, a response. It's incredible how that plays into our world and that, that response that we give on various things in our world. It really has, I think the technology has advanced quicker than our evolution to really adapt and

[00:36:02] respond appropriate to the technological leap in our society. And I think we're just kind of in this brain flutter that we're, we're trying to figure out what's going on. It fascinates me. So a lot of our world is based on psychology, and what are trends, and everything about us. Like you just stated, we're going to find a way to go with the popular, the leader, and what we need so much more in this world today is an objective voice standing up and saying, If I don't feel right about it, there's something not right and I need answers. So let's discuss that in a rational attempt to change what is happening. It's, I just love talking about this stuff.

[00:37:08] Aaron Ahuvia: Can I push back on that a little bit? Um,

[00:37:11] Ed Watters: Sure.

[00:37:11] Aaron Ahuvia: because I agree with most of what you said but there's one phrase in there that people, busy, I think it's a real opportunity of like a learning moment here. You said, If I don't feel right about it, um, there's probably something wrong with it. I hate that. I have a hunch that it's almost the opposite. If you feel

[00:37:35] Ed Watters: Yeah. Maybe.

[00:37:35] Aaron Ahuvia: really right about it, there's probably something wrong with it. And if you hear something on the news and it just makes you feel great. Oh my God, me and my side, we're the righteous victims and they're all a bunch of jerks, et cetera, et cetera. And now I have to get, you know, if it gives all of those emotional rewards, it's probably designed to give emotional rewards and not designed to tell the truth. When you hear the truth, it often makes you uncomfortable. When something is the truth, and you hear it, it does not fit well intuitively. It does not necessarily make you feel good about yourself because, you know, every person in every group, we all have flaws. Um, and, and feeling good is about papering over those flaws a lot of the time.

[00:38:31] Ed Watters: I guess I should have phrased it that I'm, uh, I'm feeling misinformed about the situation.

[00:38:38] Aaron Ahuvia: Right.

[00:38:39] Ed Watters: So, yes, and I'm, I'm glad you put me in check there because, yeah, sometimes our own thinking is based on where we've come from. And sometimes I love it when people put me in check because it gives me an opportunity to actually think about what I think I already know. And that's part of what my podcast is about. So, yes, I, I love it when people actually say, Hey, can I actually push back a little and have you think a little more objective about this? It's really what we need more in the world. And if people actually stop and give concern about their own behavior a little bit,

[00:39:25] that's where we can start shifting and changing the world. So yes, if, if my thought pattern is off and I'm unable to recognize that, hey, I should have phrased that differently. I'm finding that out with my wife now a lot, the communication that I have with my wife. And we, we really work on this hard about, you know, knowing how to communicate and put each other in [00:40:00] check. It's really needed.

[00:40:02] Aaron Ahuvia: Marriage can be, um, if it's done right, an endless opportunity for self-improvement.

[00:40:10] Ed Watters: Amen. I, I am in for that. And you know, I actually, uh, this, this month I have a wedding anniversary on September 29th. I was married back in 1985, so I, I've, uh, achieved a little there and it's been very tough. But the communication, that's really where it's at. And learning that I'm not right and definitely she's not right. We, we have to put what our own thoughts are aside and look at really what's happening and then determine together, this is what's right. And that was really difficult to grasp and understand how to come together when we think differently. But still have a very precise conversation about

[00:41:11] what we are thinking different about instead of I don't agree with you. Because our anger sometimes puts that emotional thrust in there and it's a division. And a lot of people, like you stated earlier in our conversation, they use that and it's a fuel to the fire. So, uh, Brand Love, I want to come back to that a little bit because you, you touch on three points to Brand Love. Uh, love, uh, powerful and endlessly surprising and odd. What does all of that mean?

[00:42:07] Aaron Ahuvia: Did you say odd, O, D, D or awed?

[00:42:10] Ed Watters: Yes. O,D,D. Yes, odd. Surprisingly odd.

[00:42:16] Aaron Ahuvia: Surprisingly odd, it is surprisingly odd. That kind of goes back to, uh, what I was saying a little bit, to fill in a little more what I was saying at the beginning about how, you know, love evolved for people, um, and, you know, and human beings. And that when we love a brand, or a product, or when we love nature, or when we love a, you know, something we made ourselves in the workshop, or whatever it is, um, we can only do that by having our brain, to a certain extent, treat it like a person.

[00:42:52] And there's three ways that your brain does that, um, and they're all a little bit odd. Uh, the first way is anthropomorphism and that is if the object or product looks a little bit or sounds a little bit like a person. Your brain just jumps right on board and starts thinking about it as if it was a person.

[00:43:16] So, uh, really simple examples, like the front of a car, the car designers call that the face. And so you get the headlights are the eyes and then the grill is the mouth and so you sort of have this face there. And a lot of car designs now, people are very conscious, the designers, about what kind of a personality they want that face to project.

[00:43:42] Um, and people when they're buying cars, or if some people are car lovers who love their own car, it's often very common that they, you know, unconsciously see that face and it humanizes the car and makes it easier to love. So there's a lot of times your iPhone, um, has Siri, which is, you know, your iPhone doesn't look like a person, but it sounds like a person and talks like a person, it can talk to you.

[00:44:11] And that is a form of anthropomorphism. And that also makes it just easier for your brain to love your phone because it, your brain is thinking that's kind of like a person. I can apply this love thing to it, uh, in a, in an easier way. Uh, and, and you can see that also when people like name things. Like people who name their cars, you know, much more people who name their cars are much more likely to love that car because the naming creates this kind of relationship, uh, with, with the car.

[00:44:42] So that's one way that your brain gets sort of, starts to think of it like a person. But actually we love a lot of things that aren't anthropomorphic at all. And so there's other ways that this happens. So one of the other ways is that your brain associates that thing with somebody else and sort of includes that thing in its idea about another person.

[00:45:05] So simple example, um, uh, my wedding ring, right? I love my wedding ring, but I associate my wedding ring with my wife and my relationship with my wife. And so, uh, the, the wedding ring is very bound up In, you know, in her and that relationship. And so it kind of comes along for a ride. Um, and you can tell this happens.

[00:45:32] Well, here's just some other examples that are very common, if you get a gift from a person, very often, you associate it with the person who gave it to you. And your feelings about the gift are sort of an extension of your feelings about the person who gave you the gift. Or if you have a souvenir, like you went to a concert with a friend and you had a picture taken with them at the concert, right?

[00:45:55] You love that picture but it's very much tied up in what you feel about your friend. There's a story that I like where, uh, one person I interviewed in my research, he had some gold, collectible sort of gold coins that his father gave to him as a gift and he really treasured these coins, um, until he learned that his father had been having a long time affair and cheating on his mother. And his parents got divorced and his father moved away and he was really very disappointed and angry with his dad.

[00:46:32] So what happens to these coins that he loved? He stops loving them. And in fact, not only does he, doesn't just sell them, he gives them away to somebody else. So his feelings about the coins are completely caught up with his feelings about his dad. And when he, you know, when he feels good about his dad, he feels good about the coins.

[00:46:55] When he feels bad about his dad, he feels bad about the coins. So you can, you can see that. So that's the, sort of the second way that your brain starts treating things like a person as they get caught up with some person in your mind. And the third way that is by far the most common, and I think also, in some ways, the most interesting,

[00:47:15] is that we include all sorts of objects and activities in our own sense of identity, in our own sense of who we are. And you can tell that you're doing this, uh, if you think about it. There are certain emotions that are called self relevant emotions or self referential emotions. So something like pride or shame, you feel ashamed if, uh, you do something or you feel guilty if you do something. But if you see some stranger do the same thing, you don't feel guilty, right?

[00:47:56] Guilt is an emotion that you feel when you do it, not when you watch somebody else do it. And similarly, if someone compliments you, you might feel proud. But if somebody compliments some stranger, you don't feel proud because pride, again, it's an emotion that you feel when it's about you and not when it's about someone else.

[00:48:16] Well, what if somebody says, you know, Your, your shoes are really ugly. How do you react to that? There's some people who don't think of their shoes as being part of who they are. And they might be saying, You know what, they are ugly or that's interesting. Why do you find them ugly? But for a lot of people, we think about our clothing as sort of, in some ways, part of who we are.

[00:48:40] So somebody insults our clothing, we'll get angry, we feel personally insulted. So you can see that it's connected in that way to your sense of identity and that is, I think, the central mechanism. When I think both, when we love people and when we love objects or activities, the central mechanism is a merging of identities.

[00:49:11] So you, you sort of blur the lines between you and that person that you love, or you and that thing that you love. And it becomes sort of, part of your sense of self. Now, it's not a complete inclusion. Uh, we can see this because if we felt completely that our spouse was part of ourselves, we wouldn't have any arguments about who's doing more chores.

[00:49:43] Because it wouldn't matter, we're just one unit. It doesn't matter who's doing more chores, right? So, if we, if we, if we worry about things like that, it's clear that it's only partial. But on the other hand, there's a tremendous amount of psychological evidence that I go through, some really fun stories in [00:50:00] the book,

[00:50:01] um, that shows that it may not be complete, but it's very powerful and it's definitely there. And so, when we love an object, we love a person, we think of them as being part of our own identity. Um, and that's part of the reason why if you lose a person that you love, or an object that you love, it gets so painful. Because it's, it really is like a part of yourself that's been lost.

[00:50:32] Ed Watters: Interesting. Yeah, that's, that's like an extension. Uh, so, you work with, uh, a business here that is wanting to establish themselves as a brand. And they want to identify themselves as an expert in their field. What is the best way for them to actually approach their, first of all, marketing to actually sell themselves better in the, because our world is full of marketing, you have to be able to sell yourself. What's the best way for them to use that psychological, uh, portion of marketing to get the best effect in their launch for their product, service, or business?

[00:51:34] Aaron Ahuvia: Yeah, so I'm going to assume for a moment that we're talking about a small business or a single individual who, you know, wants to do something as opposed to, you know, Procter and Gamble launching a new product.

[00:51:47] Ed Watters: Right.

[00:51:48] Aaron Ahuvia: So

[00:51:49] Ed Watters: Correct.

[00:51:50] Aaron Ahuvia: a company like, you know, these big companies like Procter and Gamble, they can be very effective with a strategy that doesn't have anything to do with people loving their products. They don't, they don't need to do that necessarily. They can make, you know, their product, if it's Tide laundry detergent, it's available everywhere.

[00:52:14] It's available in every store that sells laundry detergent. And they've got a big budget to spend on advertising. Uh, so that everyone who sees Tide, you, you may not care a lot about Tide, but you look at it and you think, that's a good laundry detergent, right? Um, so that's enough, you know, if it's at an attractive price, and it's very convenient, and you've got a positive attitude towards it, you know, you can make that work, um, if you're a big company. But if you're just an individual or you're a very small company, you don't have the money for that kind of advertising.

[00:52:51] You don't have the money for that kind of distribution. So you need something that's going to cut through the clutter and that people are going to look at and they're going to be excited about it. Now here is the first secret and, and there's a lot more to it than this, but here's, here's the first secret.

[00:53:12] People are different from you, that's why they're called other people. They're not the same as you. And the things that turn you on and excite you and make you go, Wow, is not going to be true for everybody else. Fortunately, it could be true for somebody else, right? It's not going to be true for everybody, but it could well be true for somebody.

[00:53:35] So the first step is, if you've got this product, figuring out who you're selling this thing to and why they would buy it. Um, you know, don't say I'm selling it to everyone. I'm selling, you're not selling it to everyone. Everyone isn't going to want whatever this thing is. You have to have a very clear idea of who you're selling it to.

[00:54:00] And they could be people that share your taste, but you might also be selling something that you don't like. You don't, you don't have to like every product. It could be something, a product or service that other people really like. And that you're good at producing, but that you personally don't like very much.

[00:54:18] That's totally fine too. Think of yourself as being in service to other people. So you're going to find out what meets their needs, and what they want, and what's going to make them really excited. And then you want to figure out, once you get a sense of who these people are, how you can use that to reach them and produce for them in an efficient way.

[00:54:44] So if you know, Oh, I'm, you know, the people who I am, you know, marketing this to, they tend to like very active outdoors sports. This comes to my mind now, and those of you, I know most people are going to hear this on just the audio portion, but a few of you may watch the video version and if you've made it this far, you're probably wondering, what's that weird blue rectangle on this guy's chest?

[00:55:18] This weird blue rectangle on my chest is an ice pack that has to do with a minor mountain biking mishap that I had, uh, about two hours ago, uh, on the trail before recording this. That I'm, you know, icing down here with this ice pack. Um, but, you know, let's say you figure out that, you know, people who are into these sort of outdoor sports, they're the people who really, you know, are going to benefit and be interested in this product.

[00:55:49] All right, well, now you've got a way to reach people, you know, and to target people that's much more specific than just trying to, like, talk to everybody. So, figuring out who it is, who's going to really benefit from this. And then how do I reach them? And how do I please them? That's the first step.

[00:56:12] Because the first step in creating a product or service that people will love is creating a product or service that they'll think is excellent. Loving something goes way beyond just thinking it's a really good version of whatever it is, but that's the starting point. You've got to do that, and then you've got to go further in ways that, you know, if you get the book, you'll, the book isn't really a marketing book.

[00:56:36] It doesn't give you like a step by step, here's how to, you know, market a product. It's really a book for everybody. It's a book for, I just said everybody, not everyone's gonna want this book. Um, because not everyone's gonna want whatever you produce, right? But the person who wants this book, some of them will be people who are marketers.

[00:56:53] But the book actually doesn't really talk directly about marketing. The book is about the consumer psychology, and a lot of people who are going to enjoy the book are just people who are curious. They want to understand why are, why do I, why am I into the things I'm into? And why are other people into these things? And why as a culture do we, are we so in love with our stuff and what does it mean?

[00:57:19] And how does this relate to loving people? And so a lot of the people who get the most out of the book, they're not looking necessarily, always for marketing advice. They're, they're looking to understand human nature. Um, the same kinds of people, you know, if I, if I practice what I'm preaching, I said, Okay, well, who's, you know, okay, Professor Ahuvia, you've got a product,

[00:57:40] you've got this book, you know, who's going to want your product? You know, the people that will want my product are the same people who read other sort of psychology books, um, as well as people who do marketing. Um, and I know it's not everybody, just like I was saying, don't think everyone's going to do this.

[00:57:58] There's a lot of people who don't want to read a book about human nature, you know, that's not what they're into. They want to read like a mystery story, they want to read, you know, something else. Or they don't want to read. They want to play a video game, right? So you got to know who your market is, that would be the first step.

[00:58:17] Ed Watters: Yeah. Uh, winning the hearts and the minds of the people, that marketing is big. So anytime you want to step up your business, you want to identify people because people are your market.

[00:58:37] Aaron Ahuvia: Yeah.

[00:58:37] Ed Watters: So, uh, our time is running short, do you have a call to action for our people?

[00:58:45] Aaron Ahuvia: Sure. I'll have a call to action. Um, love your neighbor as yourself, that's my call to action. No, seriously, that is seriously my call to action. But that's not, um, that's not the, I'll, I'll be a little bit more, uh, direct. If you like the book, it's called, if you found this conversation interesting, hopefully you'll also find the book interesting.

[00:59:09] Um, it's called, The Things We Love, How Our Passions Connect Us And Make Us Who We Are. And it's available just about everywhere. I've also got a blog I mentioned, um, which is through Psychology Today. So it's a Psychology Today blog and it's called, Peace, Love, And Happiness (And marketing). And if you're interested in the kinds of stuff I've been talking about, uh, you can Google that and find it and sign up, uh, and you'll get more information coming right to you.

[00:59:45] Ed Watters: And do you have any exciting things in the works for people? Uh, I think what you're doing is fascinating out here and I think they need to learn a little bit more about [01:00:00] our own psychology. Do you have any books, or podcasts, or videos, anything happening for the future?

[01:00:08] Aaron Ahuvia: So, absolutely. So what I'm, what I'm working on now is trying to get further into the what makes you happy aspects of this. Um, so if you think, I, I focus on, uh, love, happiness and peace, uh, this book is mostly about the psychology of love. Uh, and I want to work on the happiness part. That's going to be my next book, uh, and talking about how to be happy in a consumer culture. If that's a topic that interests you, you'll probably get a lot of that out of the current book as well. But I'd like to do something that's a little more specifically focused on that.

[01:00:55] Ed Watters: Yeah, I know my listeners they're, they're the type of listener that really dives into the psychology and self help because we're really in need of that. Where can people reach out, find you, get more information about you?

[01:01:14] Aaron Ahuvia: Um, I've got a website called, thethingswelove.com. So there it is, all one word, thethingswelove.com and, uh, you can get my contact through there.

[01:01:31] Ed Watters: All right. I want to say thank you for sharing with us today, it's a fascinating topic. And I can't wait to see what else you're coming out with. I will get the book and read that because I think it's fascinating. And I think people need to know just a little bit more about human nature, psychology, and how we let it drive us. Thank you, Aaron. It's been a fascinating, uh, discussion with you.

[01:02:03] Aaron Ahuvia: Ed, it's really been a pleasure. Thank you very much for the opportunity.

[01:02:11] Ed Watters: Thank you for joining us today. If you found this podcast enlightening, entertaining, educational in any way, please share, like, subscribe and join us right back here next week for another great episode of Dead America Podcast. I'm Ed Watters your host, enjoy your afternoon wherever you may be.