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How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why…
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How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like

by Paul Bloom

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"[...] people naturally assume that things in the world - including other people - have invisible essences that make them what they are. Experimental psychologists have argued that this essentialist perspective underlies our understanding of the physical and social worlds, and developmental and cross-cultural psychologists have propposed that it is instinctive and universal. We are natural-born essentialists. (p xii)" Evolution moulded us this way, and our essentialism determines much of how we experience pleasure from food (how old we believe a wine to be), sex, art (the real painting, not a fake); even if many pleasures evolved as by-products. Maybe, but much essentialism still seem quite silly. It was interesting to learn about an experiment by McClure et. al (2004) which showed that difference areas in the brain lighted up in fMRI scans when people knew as opposed to did not know whether they drank Coke or Pepsi. ( )
  ohernaes | May 13, 2014 |
How Pleasure Works is an accessibly written book which mentions some theories and interesting experiments, without really delivering on the promise of "science" that explains "why we like what we like". Mostly, what Bloom has to offer are theories and interpretations: well presented and interesting, but judging from various reviews, not conclusive enough for people who want hard and fast answers. Luckily, I wasn't really expecting any, although I was hoping for a bit more science. I'm still left thinking the answer to "why do we like what we like" is "because we're bloody minded and irrational".

I took Paul Bloom's Coursera course, Moralities of Everyday Life, and recommend both that and this book as a relatively mild introduction to the psychology surrounding these topics. ( )
  shanaqui | Mar 18, 2014 |
It was an enjoyable read with lots of interesting anecdotes, but there wasn't much content that didn't seem obvious.

"By distorting experience, beliefs, including essentialist beliefs, garner support for themselves, which is one reason why it is so hard to change our minds about anything." ( )
  heike6 | May 2, 2013 |
This a book to stimulate curiosity, not to answer it. Bloom presents several theories on how pleasure works, most of which revolve around the idea that, as humans, we believe that everything has an invisible, immeasurable essence, and that when our perception of that essence matches up with something desirable, we want it. Well, I disagree with several particulars, but it's an interesting idea. Maybe not the end-all, be-all of pleasure, but certainly interesting. ( )
  dknippling | Dec 17, 2011 |
could have been good book, isn't. Very unclear statement of idea on how pleasure works. the best part is stories abot wierd pleasures. ( )
  Janientrelac | Feb 21, 2011 |
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For my father, Bernie Bloom
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There is an animal aspect to human pleasure. (Preface)
Hermann Goering, the designated successor to Adolf Hilter, was waiting to be executed for crimes against humanity when he learned about the pleasure that had been stolen from him.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393066320, Hardcover)

Yale psychologist Paul Bloom presents a striking and thought-provoking new understanding of pleasure, desire, and value.

The thought of sex with a virgin is intensely arousing for many men. The average American spends more than four hours a day watching television. Abstract art can sell for millions of dollars. People slow their cars to look at gory accidents, and go to movies that make them cry.

Pleasure is anything but straightforward. Our desires, attractions, and tastes take us beyond the symmetry of a beautiful face, the sugar and fat in food, or the prettiness of a painting. In How Pleasure Works, Yale University psychologist Paul Bloom draws on groundbreaking research to unveil the deeper workings of why we desire what we desire. Refuting the longstanding explanation of pleasure as a simple sensory response, Bloom shows us that pleasure is grounded in our beliefs about the deeper nature or essence of a given thing. This is why we want the real Rolex and not the knockoff, the real Picasso and not the fake, the twin we have fallen in love with and not her identical sister.

In this fascinating and witty account, Bloom draws on child development, philosophy, neuroscience, and behavioral economics in order to address pleasures noble and seamy, highbrow and lowbrow. Along the way, he gives us unprecedented insights into a realm of human psychology that until now has only been partially understood. 3 illustrations

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:45 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Examines the science behind humans' strange and curious desires, attractions, and tastes, covering everything from the animal instincts of sex and food to the uniquely human taste for art, music, and stories.

» see all 3 descriptions

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W.W. Norton

Two editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393066320, 0393340007

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