The Biology of Luxury

PARIS – Despite the global economic crisis, sales of luxury goods are surging worldwide. Why? While marketing has contributed to the rise, the luxury market’s robust growth is actually rooted in biology.

Discussions about the structure of human thought have long been dominated by the Enlightenment view that reality is composed of four elements: space, time, matter, and energy. But recently, a fifth element, information, has entered the debate. And information, it turns out, is crucial to understanding the fundamental drivers of luxury-goods consumption, and thus to predicting the luxury market’s future.

Living organisms communicate, and the information that they exchange shapes their reality. While animals use colorful displays and complicated behaviors to signal fitness and strength, humans use luxury goods to demonstrate economic health.

But, more than a symbol, buying luxury goods could indicate future success, owing to the selective advantage that showing off provides. In nature, competitors perform, and the most compelling, beautiful spectacle wins.