The reason for all life is genetic continuity. Whether it be a virus, which is nothing more than a strip of genes that may cause you to sneeze so it can find a new host or a fruit bursting full of seeds that falls from a tree to be consumed and pooped out by an animal in a field far away so a new tree can grow – the meaning of life is the propagation of life. Whatever our belief systems are on how this all started, we cannot deny the genetic heritage we share with every single life form, from single-celled paramecium to a platypus, to a pineapple.
And if you understand that all animal behaviours are based on only a handful of basic drives, you can connect with anybody. Successful sales people, political and cult leaders already exploit this.
A 1998 study by Ohio State University reduced all human behaviours to 15 core drivers (I’ll list them at the end). Expectedly, the drivers ranged from sex and food to the unexpected drivers of vengeance, prestige and power. The study claims that you can appeal to anyone by appealing to as many of those drivers as possible. But that still seems excessively granular. If you just focus on three primary drivers that all animals have, you will hit enough points of interest to connect with anybody.
The three primary drivers in all animals (plants as well but they achieve it differently) are:
1. The need to acquire stuff (resources). Food, foraging grounds, mates, etc. Without basic resources, animals rarely get a chance to mate to propagate their genes.
2. The need to protect the stuff they’ve acquired (security). Nesting grounds, mates, safe access to water, etc. Without the ability defend against loss, the chance of offspring reaching sexual maturity drops significantly and their genes fail to propagate. Go watch any nature special.
3. The need to mate (gene propagation). If this doesn’t happen, their genes die with them. All life lives to give life. From a fruit fly who lives only a day, just long enough to mate, to humans, whose relentless propensity to procreate has crammed 7 billion of our species on the planet. But we’re still far behind insects, bacteria and earthworms in terms of genetic success.
Instead of thinking about lions in Tanzania, replace it with someone who goes to work every morning, doing his or her best to acquire stuff (income) so they can look after their children (50% of their genes).
Your most primitive drives for food, sex and safety are the same across all species of life. And if you don’t think advertisers already know this, then I have some time-share in Florida I’d like to sell you. Drives are beyond conscious control. That’s why life-insurance sales people stress protection from loss and AXE body wash tells teenage boys their product will somehow make it happen and pizza commercials come on at 5:30pm. As humans, we can rationalize them. But selling, and persuading is not done at the logical, rational level. It’s done at the primal level. Humans are terrible at being rational. We may act as if we’re properly assessing all relevant factors but we grossly overestimate our intrinsic ability to do so because most of our decision making is based on flawed logic.
Next time you want something from somebody, start by considering what they want first. You’ll find that at the core, it’s exactly the same stuff you want.
Here are the 15 behavioural drivers that Ohio State University lists:
1. Food – desire to eat
2. Curiosity – desire to learn
3. Rejection – desire to avoid social embarrassment
4. Honor – desire to live according to societal conduct
5. Sex – desire for pleasure or procreation
6. Physical activity – desire for mobility
7. Order – desire for safety
8. Vengeance – desire for justice
9. Power – desire to control resources
10.Citizenship – desire for tribalism
11.Prestige – desire for attention
12.Family – desire for kin
13.Aversive Sensation – desire to avoid anxiety
14.Independence – desire of autonomy
15.Social contact – desire to be among others