The essential question this unit will attempt to answer is: why do we behave the way do at any particular time? Focusing on buying things seems like a great avenue to take to get to an answer to that question. The consumer-based world that my students live in, often make them feel as if they are not as cool or less cool then everyone else if they do not own the new "best thing." There is a constant feeling that if the hat or jeans you are wearing are not new, then that fact makes you an outcast. As a result of participating in this unit, students will gain an understanding of this phenomenon and its implications for themselves and others. My students will also have an understanding of how advertisements appear to attack their emotions and motivations in order to modify their behavior. In addition students will study both physical and social motivations, and how they may cause distress in their lives. The more important thing that will be discussed is how we can rise above the connections between our happiness and our things. The concluding question that their essay will answer is, did the things you purchased make you happier or a more balanced person because you purchased them? Finally we will discuss the students awareness of prioritizing the things in their lives, in a very specific way. The essay will give students a chance to examine their personal economic choices and what kinds of implications that they can have for their future.
This unit will be taught over a one to two week period. The first lessons will focus on The Merchants of Cool documentary and the reading of selections from Malcolm Gladwell's The Cool Hunt. The lessons will include viewing the video online and reacting to it with journals, and structured discussions. The next few lessons will provide some of the background information necessary; this includes the biological causes of motivation, the social foundations of motivation, the physiological and cognitive theories of emotion, drive reduction theory and the criticisms of it, as well as Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and the James-Lange theory of emotion. Students will explore this information by reading the text book, taking notes, participating in teacher-less discussions, and classroom activities. In the last week students will synthesize all of this information, along with their personal experience into an academic essay explaining how they fit into their own economic world through a dissection of their own purchasing decisions. In this week the students will also participate in group discussions about their purchasing decisions, as well as about the format of the essay. At the end of the week they will participate in a writer's workshop where they edit each other's work.
At the conclusion of this unit students will have a mastery of both psychological motivation and emotion, as well as a sense of how they each fits into his or her own economic world. This exercise will help them in making decisions later in life when they find themselves in a personal crisis about finance, emotions, or motivation. They can lean on some of the things learned here about how to spend and save money.