Episode 58: Limbic Capitalism – Make Everything Addictive!

In this episode, Steve and Phil discuss how corporations make us addicted so they can extract as much as profit possible.


  • Limbic Capitalism: Limbic capitalism is an economic model that exploits the brain’s reward system to drive consumer behavior and profit, often at the expense of public health and ethical standards.
  • Limbic System: The brain system with various components that support a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, long-term memory, and olfaction (smell).
  • Click-through rates:
  • Age of Addiction by David T Courtwright
  • Addiction By Design (Youtube) by Natasha Dow Schüll
  • Hooked on Smart Phones (Youtube) with Natasha Dow Schüll
  • Flow State: The mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
  • Rational Choice Theory (economics): The theory postulates that an individual will perform a cost–benefit analysis to determine whether an option is right for them. It also suggests that an individual’s self-driven rational actions will help better the overall economy. Rational choice theory looks at three concepts: rational actors, self interest and the invisible hand.
  • Temperance Movement: a social movement promoting temperance or complete abstinence from consumption of alcoholic beverages. Participants in the movement typically criticize alcohol intoxication or promote teetotalism, and its leaders emphasize alcohol’s negative effects on people’s health, personalities and family lives.
  • Laissez-Faire Capitalism: a type of economic system in which transactions between private groups of people are free from any form of economic interventionism (such as subsidies or regulations).
  • Jonathan Haidt (Psychologist) – Author of The Righteous Mind (very good book, but he’s kind of gone off the rails in more recent years)
  • Priming (psychology): the idea that exposure to one stimulus may influence a response to a subsequent stimulus, without conscious guidance or intention.
  • Confabulation: a memory error consisting of the production of fabricated, distorted, or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world.
  • Curse of Knowledge (AKA Curse of Expertise): a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, who is communicating with others, assumes that others have information that is only available to themselves, assuming they all share a background and understanding.
  • Pathological Learning:
  • Operant Conditioning: a learning process where voluntary behaviors are modified by association with the addition (or removal) of reward or aversive stimuli.
  • Rosy Retrospection: a proposed psychological phenomenon of recalling the past more positively than it was actually experienced.
  • Super Stimuli: an exaggerated version of a stimulus to which there is an existing response tendency, or any stimulus that elicits a response more strongly than the stimulus for which it evolved.
  • Fordism: an industrial engineering and manufacturing system that serves as the basis of modern social and labor-economic systems that support industrialized, standardized mass production and mass consumption.
  • McDonaldization: the process of a society adopting the characteristics of a fast-food restaurant.
  • Crony Capitalism: a pejorative term used in political discourse to describe a situation in which businesses profit from a close relationship with state power, either through an anti-competitive regulatory environment, direct government largesse, and/or corruption. (Hint: this is where it always leads when industry gets enough money to bend policy to their interests.)
  • Reaganomics: were the neoliberal economic policies promoted by U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s. These policies are characterized as supply-side economics, trickle-down economics, or “voodoo economics” by opponents, while Reagan and his advocates preferred to call it free-market economics.
  • Milton Friedman: Reaganomics cheerleader, neoliberal propagandist, debater of university students to assert his dominance.
  • Determinism: he philosophical view that all events in the universe, including human decisions and actions, are causally inevitable.

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