What donuts, Rolexes, and Las Vegas have in common...
I'm sitting at the airport, waiting to fly out of Las Vegas.
I've only been here for 17 hours but I feel like I've been here for 17 days.
It's a draining place to be.
Each time I come to this city, I feel like I've been transported into the real-world embodiment of Freud's Id.
Everywhere you look, there's a billboard of some half-nude person or a status symbol of some sort.
"Rolex, The Power of Precision".
Guys wear fancy suits and expensive ornaments to show off their wealth. Louis Vuitton wallets and $10,000 watches are practically universal in certain casinos.
Others don tight-fitting shirts or tank tops to show off their bulging biceps.
The amount of bare flesh on display is unequaled outside of the beach in mid-summer.
When I was studying behavioral science in school, we learned about something called a "superstimulus". This is a sound, sight, smell, or edible object on steroids.
A good example of a superstimulus is a donut. We evolved to crave sugar and fat. This led us to pursue things like avocadoes, fresh meat, and delicious fruits. But that same craving is easily hijacked by candy, donuts, and anything packed with plenty of fat and sugar.
And there are entire industries focused on creating the most powerful superstimuli possible.
Chefs, especially those in the experimental kitchens of the large restaurant chains, create seductive mixtures of salt, sugar, and fat that are designed to hook us.
Musicians (especially electronic musicians) create beats and tunes that cause our ears to convulse with overwhelming pleasure.
And the casino owners here in Vegas work hard to create status superstimuli. These take the forms of roped-off VIP areas, exclusive restaurants, and so on.
While some superstimuli are harmless, many are not.
Fatty and sugary foods destroy our health and vitality.
Loud, bumping music destroys our hearing.
And the never-ending task of "keeping up with the Joneses" can destroy our sanity.
The best way to deal with a superstimulus?
Which is why living in Las Vegas year round is probably not the best way to live a long, happy, and healthy life.
But I must admit that, for a behavioral scientist, it's one of the most fascinating places on the planet. The people watching here is unparalleled.
And there's no better way to learn about human nature than by looking at the extremes...
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