Bloom (Descartes' Baby), a psychology professor at Yale, explores pleasure from evolutionary and social perspectives, distancing himself from the subject's common association with the senses. By examining studies and anecdotes of pleasure-inducing activities like eating, art, sex, and shopping, Bloom posits that pleasure takes us closer to the essence of a thing, be it animal, vegetable, or mineral. He argues that humans seem to be hard-wired to give, as well as receive, pleasure. A study using mislabeled, cheap bottles of wine, wherein "Forty experts said the wine with the fancy label was worth drinking, while only twelve said this of the cheap label," demonstrates the complicated sociological components behind what we find pleasurable. Bloom even briefly examines positive reactions to very hot food and other "controlled doses of pain." And a study where rhesus monkeys chose pictures of female hindquarters and high-status monkeys over fruit juice allows the author to surmise that "Two major vices-pornography and celebrity worship-are not exclusively human."
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“[A] book that is different from the slew already out there on the general subject of happiness. No advice here about how to become happier by organizing your closest; Bloom is after something deeper than the mere stuff of feeling good.” (The New York Times Book Review)
“Engaging, evocative… Bloom, a professor of psychology at Yale, is a supple, clear writer, and his parade of counter-intuitive claims about pleasure is beguiling.” (Michael Washburn - NPR)
“Is there anyone who could resist a book about sex, food, art, and fun? Didn’t think so. This book is about all those things, but what turns it from a guilty pleasure into a guiltless one is its deep understanding of philosophy, developmental psychology, and evolutionary theory… How Pleasure Works
should stoke your neurons into a frenzy and leave you wanting more.” (Mary Carmichael - Newsweek.com)
“Bloom covers food, sex and art at length and touches on much more in this accessible compendium of experiments, quotes, philosophical nuggets and anecdotes. Sigmund Freud, Mr. Pleasure Principle himself, would have approved.” (Katy Steinmetz - Time)
“Scholarly yet spy…. Bloom salts the book with all manner of pungent, apposite points…. A heartening, well-developed argument.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“A gracefully written book and a lot of fun.” (Peter D. Kramer - Slate)
“Drawing on his own research as well as studies in neuroscience, behavioral economics, and philosophy, [Bloom] makes a powerful argument for essentialism at the crux of human pleasure.” (Maywa Montenegro - Seed Magazine)
“In this eloquent and provocative book, Paul Bloom takes us inside the paradoxes of pleasure, exploring everything from cannibalism to Picasso to IKEA furniture. The quirks of delight, it turns out, are a delightful way to learn about the human mind.” (Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide)
“This book is not just a pleasure, but a revelation, by one of psychology’s deepest thinkers and best writers. Lucid and fascinating, you’ll want to read it slowly and savor the experience.” (Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness)
“How Pleasure Works
has one of the best discussions I’ve read of why art is pleasurable, why it matters to us, and why it moves us so.” (Daniel Levitin, author of This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession)
“This book is a pearl, a work of great beauty and value, built up around a simple truth: that we are essentialists, tuned in to unseen order.” (Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom)