Dichter's survey and analysis of behavior ranges widely. He examines everyday matters of product choice, as well as such broad civic issues as voter participation, religious toleration, and racial understanding. He shows that in order to achieve socially constructive goals, it is necessary to move beyond theological exhortation, which takes an unrealistic view of human morality, as well as beyond the limits of empirically oriented social science research, which only deals in appearances. Dichter sees human action as rooted in irrational and often unconscious motivation, which can usually be uncovered if the correct approach is used. In his consumer research, he analyzes the nonutilitarian importance of objects in everyday life, as well as how products and materials become bound with emotional resonance or acquire different meanings from different contexts or points of view. Dichter shows that success depends on thesatisfaction of desires and a movement beyond the ethic of work and saving. Arguing that in an increasingly technological world, progress and social harmony are materially based, he advocates a morality of the good life in which prosperity and leisure lead to greater human self-assurance in the face of change.
First published in 1960, The Strategy of Desire is especially timely in the age of the Internet and ever-increasing effect of sophisticated computer technology on consumer culture.
Ernest Dichter (1907-1991) was consulting psychologist for the Columbia Broadcasting System from 1943 to 1946, president of the Institute for Motivational Research, and founder of Ernest Dichter Associates International. His books include, The Psychology of Everyday Life, Handbook of Consumer Motivation, Motivating Human Behavior, and The Naked Manager. Arthur Asa Berger is professor of broadcast and electronic communication arts at San Francisco State University.