The Grocery List: Color, Primates, and Food Selection

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Color, everywhere (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)

I always take a shopping list with me to the grocery store.

But I rarely stick to it, because those marketing experts working for the big chains know just how to entice me into buying things not on my list. That’s probably why most people I see in the grocery store don’t shop with a written list dangling from their hands. Maybe they’ve got one stored on their cell phones through one of the many apps available. Maybe not.

A list proves futile in the face of modern marketing and certain behavior wired into our genes.

Stop for a moment and gaze at the colorful chaos of any aisle in any grocery store. Reds, yellows, oranges – all pop up in bewildering patterns designed to pique curiosity. And to impel us to part with the green paper in our wallets. Color-related emotions depend on what culture we come from, but impulse spenders, at least in North American culture, thrive when those colors appear.

I think about this riot of color as I meander up and down the aisles packed with cans and boxes or when I roam through the produce section like a primate in a tropical forest. The reds grab my attention first. Yes, as I reach for the red apples and orange-hued mangoes, I mimic some ancient behavior. Our primate ancestors developed trichromatic color vision, which helped them (and the fruit they sought) to evolve.

And so I pick through the green zucchini – rejecting the rubbery ones that bend with the slightest pressure of my hands. My eyes dart to the yellow crook-neck squash.  Oh why, not? I toss three of those into my cart.

In the parking lot, I load my goodies into the back of my car. When I return the small cart, perfectly sized for the single shopper or the empty-nest couple, I glance into the cart next to mine, attracted by a large, round, white object.

A grocery list, written on a Styrofoam plate, of all things. We don’t really need apps, do we?

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Apps, We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Apps (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)

© 2013 C. Bertelsen