Journal of Bioeconomics

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 111–122 | Cite as

The rationality of literal Tide Pod consumption

  • Ryan H. MurphyEmail author


At the conclusion of 2017, to the dismay of journalists, pundits, and academics, large numbers of adolescents began consuming Tide Pods, a form of laundry detergent that is candy-like in appearance. This paper argues that purposeful consumption of laundry detergent may in fact be individually rational for adolescents. The consumption of Tide Pods may allow adolescents to successfully signal status in accordance with the Handicap Principle, which explains the beauty of a peacock’s tail and the practice of stotting by gazelles in the wild. The Handicap Principle is also a common explanation of adolescents’ willingness to engage in dangerous activities, like drug use. A subtext of the thesis of this paper is the veracity of rational choice explanations in unconventional contexts distant from its original applications.


Tide Pods Veblen good Conspicuous consumption Handicap principle 

JEL Classification

Z13 B52 



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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom, SMU Cox School of BusinessSouthern Methodist UniversityDallasUSA

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