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How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like (Audiobook)

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Yale psychologist Paul Bloom presents a striking new vision of the pleasures of everyday life. The thought of sex with a virgin is intensely arousing for many men. The average American spends over four hours a day watching television. Abstract art can sell for millions of dollars. Young children enjoy playing with imaginary friends and can be comforted by security blankets Yale psychologist Paul Bloom presents a striking new vision of the pleasures of everyday life. The thought of sex with a virgin is intensely arousing for many men. The average American spends over four hours a day watching television. Abstract art can sell for millions of dollars. Young children enjoy playing with imaginary friends and can be comforted by security blankets. People slow their cars to look at gory accidents and go to movies that make them cry. In this fascinating and witty account, Paul Bloom examines the science behind these 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. Drawing on insights from child development, philosophy, neuroscience, and behavioral economics, How Pleasure Works shows how certain universal habits of the human mind explain what we like and why we like it.


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Yale psychologist Paul Bloom presents a striking new vision of the pleasures of everyday life. The thought of sex with a virgin is intensely arousing for many men. The average American spends over four hours a day watching television. Abstract art can sell for millions of dollars. Young children enjoy playing with imaginary friends and can be comforted by security blankets Yale psychologist Paul Bloom presents a striking new vision of the pleasures of everyday life. The thought of sex with a virgin is intensely arousing for many men. The average American spends over four hours a day watching television. Abstract art can sell for millions of dollars. Young children enjoy playing with imaginary friends and can be comforted by security blankets. People slow their cars to look at gory accidents and go to movies that make them cry. In this fascinating and witty account, Paul Bloom examines the science behind these 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. Drawing on insights from child development, philosophy, neuroscience, and behavioral economics, How Pleasure Works shows how certain universal habits of the human mind explain what we like and why we like it.

30 review for How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like (Audiobook)

  1. 4 out of 5

    lola

    This book sets up a theory for you (essentialism) and then puts a principle in place (that we like and derive pleasure from things because we perceive something "essential" about them) and expounds on it different ways: food, sex, collecting, whatever. The big problem with the book is that food, sex, collecting, whatever are humongous topics, each with their own "home theories" that are virtually ignored. I felt this most acutely in the sex chapter, which was largely based around that fucking "p This book sets up a theory for you (essentialism) and then puts a principle in place (that we like and derive pleasure from things because we perceive something "essential" about them) and expounds on it different ways: food, sex, collecting, whatever. The big problem with the book is that food, sex, collecting, whatever are humongous topics, each with their own "home theories" that are virtually ignored. I felt this most acutely in the sex chapter, which was largely based around that fucking "parental investment" bullshit I've had crammed down my throat forever--an old theory, taken down a million times. Were you guys aware that there are only two genders, and women act one way and men act another way, all of the time, no matter what, because they are motivated to reproduce? I know, right? An easy evolutionary psych bingo: "The dynamics of our savannah ancestors looked curiously like those of 1950s America." "Confusion over whether they're rationalizing polyamory or nuclear-family patriarchy, but whatever they're rationalizing, only men evolved to enjoy it." I feel bad, because the dude seems kind and smart and I love that this book was written. But as I read I often felt like I was trying to hold in a wince as my favorite uncle spouts of poorly-informed political beliefs during Thanksgiving dinner.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Louise Chapman

    Having listened insatiably to Paul Bloom in his captivating Yale course to Introductory Psychology, when I tracked down his literature on Amazon, I had to buy this book. I do not regret the purchase whatsoever. The man writes with incredible lucidity and wit, and he conveys his points effectively until the end. 'How Pleasure Works' really made me think twice about why I get so much pleasure from certain activities, and, more importantly, why others get pleasure from things that I might personall Having listened insatiably to Paul Bloom in his captivating Yale course to Introductory Psychology, when I tracked down his literature on Amazon, I had to buy this book. I do not regret the purchase whatsoever. The man writes with incredible lucidity and wit, and he conveys his points effectively until the end. 'How Pleasure Works' really made me think twice about why I get so much pleasure from certain activities, and, more importantly, why others get pleasure from things that I might personally judge as unappealing. This book was full of insight, which is appropriate since it is psychology, and I can recommend to anybody who has the merest interest in understanding human-nature better. I am just about to begin Bloom's 'Descartes' Baby' about childhood development and its implications on adulthood, and I cannot describe my excitement at the prospect! Bloom really is the most accessible popular science writer of his generation. 'How Pleasure Works' was impossible to put down. It reads as grippingly as good fiction, but better since I felt on every page I was learning something new; having my mind further and further prized open by his incredible insights. Bloom's writing style is deliciously smooth and accessible, making this book suitable for those who would usually shy away from science literature. The humour present in this book definitely allows it to transcend any stereotypes that 'science is for bores'. Arguably, if more science writers delivered their arguments in the humour-laced packages that Bloom does, the modern world would be brighter, more enlightened, and more tolerant. In short, Bloom is an utter joy to read and to listen to: may he too provide you with the joy and enlightenment he has endowed upon me.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Prashasti

    It starts off strong but with each passing chapter, everything feels redundant. Just facts, psychology, and essentialism!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Maryana Pinchuk

    As far as the popularizers go, this is more substantive than a Gladwell but far less so than a Pinker. In fact, much of the research and insights discussed were pulled directly from other popularizers, including Pinker, to the point where I felt some serious deja vu (deja lu?). Also, for a book about pleasure, a nontrivial portion of it being devoted to cannibalism as compared to other lurid but not-that-lurid pleasures just feels like whatever the book equivalent is of clickbait. Amazon one-cli As far as the popularizers go, this is more substantive than a Gladwell but far less so than a Pinker. In fact, much of the research and insights discussed were pulled directly from other popularizers, including Pinker, to the point where I felt some serious deja vu (deja lu?). Also, for a book about pleasure, a nontrivial portion of it being devoted to cannibalism as compared to other lurid but not-that-lurid pleasures just feels like whatever the book equivalent is of clickbait. Amazon one-clickbait?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    Fun fluff. I really hate to give this guy two stars for a decently written, well researched book. But for all the interesting anecdotes, experiments, and theories, the book doesn't begin to deliver what the title promises. In other words, the book promises to tell us why pleasure works, but the writer doesn't give us any concrete conclusions. He does suggest that we find pleasure with things and ideas that have an authentic, true "essence" - in other words, we have no tolerance for fakes. Each o Fun fluff. I really hate to give this guy two stars for a decently written, well researched book. But for all the interesting anecdotes, experiments, and theories, the book doesn't begin to deliver what the title promises. In other words, the book promises to tell us why pleasure works, but the writer doesn't give us any concrete conclusions. He does suggest that we find pleasure with things and ideas that have an authentic, true "essence" - in other words, we have no tolerance for fakes. Each of us, even small children, possess a finely tuned fake-detector. But if essentialism is the key to pleasure, then the writer could have covered that theory in a book one third as long. Instead, the book drags on with endless examples and expert opinions, all leading to more questions. At the end, we've learned theories about how pleasure works, but no delineated point of view. A more realistic title would be "Why do we like what we like? Who the hell knows?"

  6. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    What could be more relaxing and interesting than a conversation with a learned friend about what pleasures us? Bloom doeosn't shrink from describing the more depraved pleasures humans claim to like, nor does he ignore the mundane and ordinary things that make our lives interesting and fulfilling. And at the end, he mentiones the BIG questions of transcendence and truth, possibility and destiny. But what struck me now, perhaps at this time in my tiny life, so constrained by circumstance and my ow What could be more relaxing and interesting than a conversation with a learned friend about what pleasures us? Bloom doeosn't shrink from describing the more depraved pleasures humans claim to like, nor does he ignore the mundane and ordinary things that make our lives interesting and fulfilling. And at the end, he mentiones the BIG questions of transcendence and truth, possibility and destiny. But what struck me now, perhaps at this time in my tiny life, so constrained by circumstance and my own limited nature, is that man appears to crave nature, and contact with the natural world brings a deep and abiding, one might say life-giving, pleasure. At a time when man is struggling to understand and control or contain the forces of nature, nature itself appears to be the key to our survival as a species, and to ignore, desecrate, or belittle it will, if nothing else, make us miserable. I put this on my "religion" shelf, only because, at the end, Bloom mentions Dawkins, and introduces the concept of science inducing in us an awed wonder that "makes life worth living."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie H

    I had nothing against Paul Bloom's style for the durration of the book. In fact, I rather enjoyed his style and thought his simple language and format would be an adequate way of describing why we like what we like. You can sum up Bloon's entire 200 page argument in about 2 sentences. "We like things when we feel there is an associated essential quality to their being, imparted from either and internal or external source. The extent of our likes vary across several categories, including food, sex I had nothing against Paul Bloom's style for the durration of the book. In fact, I rather enjoyed his style and thought his simple language and format would be an adequate way of describing why we like what we like. You can sum up Bloon's entire 200 page argument in about 2 sentences. "We like things when we feel there is an associated essential quality to their being, imparted from either and internal or external source. The extent of our likes vary across several categories, including food, sex and religion; however, all of those categories are based on the same desire for essentialism." Although this book has a "why" in the title, every explanation is based on correlation, not causation. Again, these are fine conclusions to draw, but they are only interesting for about chapter. The anecdotes and transitional stories were great, but I wanted a greater overall theme, not something that could be summed up so quickly with a slew of anecdotal evidence.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    I loved this book it. It starts off Goering was an obsessive art collector and had already plundered much of Europe. But he was a huge fan of Vermeer, and this was the acquisition that he was most proud of. a forgery, by disapointing Hermann Goering on his deathbed, and then goes on to explain how a collector was able to purchase Napoléon’s penis it was (severed by the priest who had administered last rites to him.) before going onto the market. But really it makes you doubt that objects have any I loved this book it. It starts off Goering was an obsessive art collector and had already plundered much of Europe. But he was a huge fan of Vermeer, and this was the acquisition that he was most proud of. a forgery, by disapointing Hermann Goering on his deathbed, and then goes on to explain how a collector was able to purchase Napoléon’s penis it was (severed by the priest who had administered last rites to him.) before going onto the market. But really it makes you doubt that objects have any essence aside from what we assign them. This theory of pleasure is an extension of one of the most interesting ideas in the cognitive sciences, which is that people naturally assume that things in the world—including other people—have invisible essences that make them what they are.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nicky

    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 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.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    I bought this book after following a few captivating online talks by Paul Bloom. It was a pleasant read and it will prove insightful to anyone with a minimum knowledge of psychology. However, more experienced readers might feel disappointed, like I did, by the lack of a deeper explanation of his thesis. Basically, he argues that people are essentialists, that we believe in "an underlying reality or true nature that one cannot observe directly" but matters most and is the basis of us finding plea I bought this book after following a few captivating online talks by Paul Bloom. It was a pleasant read and it will prove insightful to anyone with a minimum knowledge of psychology. However, more experienced readers might feel disappointed, like I did, by the lack of a deeper explanation of his thesis. Basically, he argues that people are essentialists, that we believe in "an underlying reality or true nature that one cannot observe directly" but matters most and is the basis of us finding pleasure in unusual things. He also proves how, despite our beliefs, we are not evolved enough for the environments we live in, which is the reason for most of our misfortunes. Overall, I preffered Dan Ariely's "Predictably Irrational".

  11. 4 out of 5

    Manal Omar

    Our very motivations and impulses sliced into bits. Why we like what we like is not at all an easy business; and explaining it would have us running in circles. A very interesting and- surprisingly entertaining-book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Santhosh

    Why and how humans are different from the other animals. Explains and talks about the oft-quoted "sixth sense" of ours. Talks about essentialism, how the history of anything is as important to humans as the thing itself (auctions of personal items of famous people, security blankets, attachments to personal belongings), importance to material things, imaginary friends, our enjoyment of music and art, sexual subterfuge, imagination, delight in good food, voyeurism, empathy, fiction, black humour, Why and how humans are different from the other animals. Explains and talks about the oft-quoted "sixth sense" of ours. Talks about essentialism, how the history of anything is as important to humans as the thing itself (auctions of personal items of famous people, security blankets, attachments to personal belongings), importance to material things, imaginary friends, our enjoyment of music and art, sexual subterfuge, imagination, delight in good food, voyeurism, empathy, fiction, black humour, horror movies, S&M, daydreaming, adventure sports, museums, our mind hasn't yet evolved to catch up with the world we've created and are now living in and thus causing conflict, play-acting, etc. I found most of the content to be superficial in its treatment, and felt the book as a whole could also be better structured and edited. My suggestion: Watch Paul Bloom talk about this.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Daniil Bratchenko

    I chose this book because I was interested in what effects pleasure (or lack of thereof) has on human psychology. Some of my self-experiments include fighting desires (like eating high-carb food) and I was interested in what effect they may have. While this book did not answer my questions (The Willpower Instinct is much better in that regard), it was very informative and entertaining. The author explores why we like or don’t like things, people, and experiences. He especially focuses on counter- I chose this book because I was interested in what effects pleasure (or lack of thereof) has on human psychology. Some of my self-experiments include fighting desires (like eating high-carb food) and I was interested in what effect they may have. While this book did not answer my questions (The Willpower Instinct is much better in that regard), it was very informative and entertaining. The author explores why we like or don’t like things, people, and experiences. He especially focuses on counter-intuitive preferences of a typical human. Why do we like original paintings if we cannot tell them apart from forgeries? Why do we like horror movies? And even why people eat other people (usually not because they are hungry). While this was not one of the most inspiring books I have read recently, I enjoyed it a lot.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Elliot de Vries

    Each chapter of How Pleasure Works attempts to demonstrate that a particular subset of the things we enjoy (e.g. food, art, love) at least partially depends on what Bloom calls our “essentialism” in order to give us pleasure. By “essentialism” Bloom means our tendency to believe that the things and people around us have various hidden essences which make them what they “truly” are. Examples of “essentialism” provided include: the way in which we naturally attribute a “life force”, “chi” or “élan Each chapter of How Pleasure Works attempts to demonstrate that a particular subset of the things we enjoy (e.g. food, art, love) at least partially depends on what Bloom calls our “essentialism” in order to give us pleasure. By “essentialism” Bloom means our tendency to believe that the things and people around us have various hidden essences which make them what they “truly” are. Examples of “essentialism” provided include: the way in which we naturally attribute a “life force”, “chi” or “élan vital” to living things but not the dead or non-living; the pleasure we take in an authentic Vermeer as compared to a copy, even when we wouldn’t be capable of distinguishing them; the way in which people, randomly divided into groups, automatically attribute different qualities to themselves and others based on those groupings; the way in which we might say “I won’t wash my hand for a week” after shaking the hand of someone famous. In all these cases, there is something immaterial or not directly perceived which is nonetheless necessary for us to respond the way we normally do. Obviously this is far from an explicit definition, but for me at least the idea has enough prima facie plausibility to agree that there's likely something fairly important hidden under all the examples. Something I particularly like is the rejection of the idea that we are necessarily “fooling” ourselves when we take pleasure in these hidden essences: as Bloom has it, we get far more pleasure from our “essentialism” than we would without it when we enjoy an “authentic” Vermeer, “vintage” furniture, a “homemade” cookie, an “heirloom” tomato or a guitar pick that was used by Pete Townsend at Woodstock. When we find out that the pick wasn’t Townsend’s, or that it has gone through a sanitizing wash cycle since he used it, or that while it was his, it was never used, we aren’t wrong to be disappointed — even though we never would have noticed if someone had secretly swapped it out with a relatively non-storied pick. We weren’t enjoying it as a guitar pick in the first place. We were enjoying the “essence” of its connection to people and events, something which cannot readily be restored once that essence has been somehow defiled or stolen. Similarly, if we find out that the “homemade” cookies we have been eating can be had for $1.99 at Safeway, while their chemical composition remains the same we will nonetheless lose any pleasure we were taking in the thought of the time, consideration and effort that went into their making. Once we know that we have been drinking Folger’s Crystals, we really cam't help but enjoy the coffee less. Of course, it’s not impossible for this “essentialism” to lead us into bad decisions or bad policy, but it certainly seems to be a mistake to think we’d be better off entirely freed from these “illusions”. Consider that even friendship and romantic love share in this “essentialism”. Spending time with others causes us to develop a sense of uniqueness and importance in regard to them, at least partially separate from the actual utility and pleasure we take in their company. As a question of fact, there’s little doubt that an entirely different set of persons would have been able to take up this same importance and uniqueness to us if conditions had been different, but it is effectively impossible to maintain close friendship with someone — even less so romantic love — while simultaneously bearing this replaceability in mind. As a sort of eerie exemplification of this, Bloom mentions a rare psychological condition in which the sufferer believes that their loved ones have all been replaced by doppelgangers — one interpretation of this being that for some reason the sufferer can no longer connect them with their familiar, imperceivable “essences”. Summing up: It’s clear that even Bloom would agree that “essentialism” does not really explain “how pleasure works”. It would be more apt to say that without “essentialism” we cannot fully understand pleasure — something that’s hardly less interesting. And since “essentialism” is not limited only to things in which we take pleasure, no doubt any exploration of it is useful. I suspect that someone could just as well have written a book called How the Sacred Works using the same idea. On the whole there are a few questionable leaps and strange conclusions, and the treatments of the various topics are not evenly good, but for the reasons mentioned above, as well as that a lot of the psychology Bloom covers is interesting in its own right, How Pleasure Works is worth a read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    James Kittredge

    A fine book that made for great listening on a week of commutes to a workshop. It's one of a spate of recent tomes on cognitive neuroscience. I tend to enjoy these books (some others are Outliers, Predictably Irrational, and Herd), but I'm starting to feel like I'm just setting myself up for disappointment. In each of them, the author states a basic, completely intuitive thesis, and then spends the next several hundred pages beating it in to the dirt. I'm not sure what I expect at this point, bu A fine book that made for great listening on a week of commutes to a workshop. It's one of a spate of recent tomes on cognitive neuroscience. I tend to enjoy these books (some others are Outliers, Predictably Irrational, and Herd), but I'm starting to feel like I'm just setting myself up for disappointment. In each of them, the author states a basic, completely intuitive thesis, and then spends the next several hundred pages beating it in to the dirt. I'm not sure what I expect at this point, but I think I'm stuck in a feedback loop. Bloom's examples range from the simply interesting (Discussions of how we 'essentialise' objects such as art or sports memorabilia) to the lurid (What have some people become cannibals? Why are people excited by sexual fetishes?) These illustrations are fun to read about/listen to, and the author's writing style is academic, while also being appropriately humorous (and often tongue-in-cheek). Finally, I appreciated the time he spent discussing the evolutionary advantages and history of many human behaviors (from musical expression to dating behaviors). As a non-scientist, I was fascinated. By the same token, many of his inferences and observations are just plain obvious. For example, who knew that we tend to like things with which we are familiar?! Did you also ever imagine in a million years that you may be at least initially reluctant to eat chocolate shaped like dog feces, because it reminds you of actual dog feces? Sometimes, it just felt like Bloom was spinning his wheels and trying to pad out a book that could have easily been a bit shorter. All that said, I still liked the book, even if there were plenty of 'DUH' moments, and even if the one note thesis about essentialism started to sound like the proverbial broken record. It was well researched, colorfully written, interdisciplinary, and entertaining. I just think that I might need to switch the genres of nonfiction I read/listen to for a while.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Paul Bloom, author of How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like, wrote a fascinating essay for the New York Times Magazine entitled The Moral Life of Babies (with the adorably cute accompanying video, Can Babies Tell Right From Wrong?). Although this book doesn't appear to related directly to the moral life of babies, if his quality of writing is as high then his treatment should be engrossing.     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     • Bloom's book is reviewe Paul Bloom, author of How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like, wrote a fascinating essay for the New York Times Magazine entitled The Moral Life of Babies (with the adorably cute accompanying video, Can Babies Tell Right From Wrong?). Although this book doesn't appear to related directly to the moral life of babies, if his quality of writing is as high then his treatment should be engrossing.     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     • Bloom's book is reviewed favorably in the New York Times' The Psychology of Bliss .

  17. 5 out of 5

    Taka

    Misleading and Diffuse-- Paul Bloom, a developmental psychologist, argues convincingly in this eclectic book that we humans are "essentialists" by nature. In his own words, essentialism is a view that "things have an underlying reality or true nature that one cannot observe directly." So we balk at the ideas of fake artworks, plastic surgery, drug-induced performance, and other phenomena that represent unautheticity. The problem with this book is that it covers a wide range of topics from food, sex Misleading and Diffuse-- Paul Bloom, a developmental psychologist, argues convincingly in this eclectic book that we humans are "essentialists" by nature. In his own words, essentialism is a view that "things have an underlying reality or true nature that one cannot observe directly." So we balk at the ideas of fake artworks, plastic surgery, drug-induced performance, and other phenomena that represent unautheticity. The problem with this book is that it covers a wide range of topics from food, sex, and sports to art and stories and hammers in the same message about essentialism - that is, we gain pleasure from the invisible "essence" of things. The result is that it dilutes each topic it covers. The chapter on story, for example, feels lacking in substance and although some of the explanations are interesting, they're all utterly useless when it comes to real-life application. Not much of the book, moreover, is "sticky" - I have a hard time remembering the lines of argument and the conclusions. Useless and easy to forget.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Darnell

    I didn't get as much pleasure from this book as I should have. There's some fascinating research on children, trying to measure their capacities for reasoning/judgment/morality, but that research always plays second fiddle to a bunch of just so stories that draw a lot of conclusions from limited correlation-based data. The book is very readable, but too much of it boils down to "People like things because essentialism."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I got a lot of looks for reading this book but despite its cover its not entirely about sex, in fact, very little of the book revolves around it. As everyone may know, the word pleasure is linked to certain activities however that's not the full extent of the word. Pleasure has to do with getting happiness from anything and everything, and this book explains why we get pleasure from things; both normal and strange.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Loved it! Insightful, fascinating and well written!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Pat Harris

    I wish I could give this book a "no star" because this author is speaking out of his own prejudice and ideology. He spends too much time "reading into" the intent of other books and exalting Essentialism, the philosophy that we do things because we see something essential in them or are trying to "capture" something from it. For example, he claims Jesus' words, "This is my body, eat; this is my blood, drink", is proof that Jesus promoted cannibalism! And so does one of my favorite children's boo I wish I could give this book a "no star" because this author is speaking out of his own prejudice and ideology. He spends too much time "reading into" the intent of other books and exalting Essentialism, the philosophy that we do things because we see something essential in them or are trying to "capture" something from it. For example, he claims Jesus' words, "This is my body, eat; this is my blood, drink", is proof that Jesus promoted cannibalism! And so does one of my favorite children's books, "Where The Wild Things Are": "Oh, please come back! We love you and will eat you up!". Wow, and all this time I thought that when my mom told me she was going to eat me up while planting kisses all over me, she was really preparing to literally devour me! Bloom apparently cannot determine figurative speech. Normally, I'd have never chosen this book to read. But it was a required reading for my TENTH GRADE DAUGHTER, 16, for a literary arts class. Of course, it wasn't Bloom's fault that my daughter was forced to read his book; but I'm resentful that the critic reviews never mention the depth of perversions and sexual acts discussed. But then again, I assumed the teacher would have read any book she made required reading! Shame on me; in the future, it is my priority to read any of my daughters required reading. The first time my daughter was profoundly disturbed was on page 27, when she read the story about the man who cut another man's penis off, cooked it in olive oil, and ate it, then stabbed the man to death, cut him up in small pieces and stored him in the freezer, eating 44 lbs of him before being arrested. Bloom then goes into the reasons for cannibalism: the Eaten is so loved and, by devouring the loved one, the Eater keeps the memory with him forever, to capture the Eaten's essence (strength, bravery, virility, etc) along with other reasons (starvation). But interestingly enough, he never mentions Kuru, the always incurable, irreversible and terminal (two weeks to 6 months) disease every cannibal gets from cannibalism, that causes holes in your brain, making it look like cerebral Swiss cheese. A few pages later, Bloom offers up a two-paragraph discussion, including a recipe, on how to eat human placenta! Bloom swears it's an excellent source of protein, but I doubt that we presently have a dearth of protein sources in the world! Anal sex, cunnilingus, fellatio, mutual masterbation and polyamory is also covered (my daughter had yet to hear of any of these). He also claims, "The obsession of virginity is one of the ugliest aspects of our sexual psyche." So much for the ADVANTAGES for abstaining from sex before marriage. The protection from accidental pregnancies, thus, abortions (which CAN later cause a future planned/wanted pregancy unable to come to full term, and actually a major cause of future infertility and miscarriages, with no predictor available to predict precisely which women are most susceptible); and a reduction of sexually transmitted diseases (also a cause of future infertility) are never mentioned. Never! Since Bloom is a psychology teacher at Yale, I'm sure wrote it for college level. Had my daughter decided to read this book at 18, that would be her choice. But a college student, if offended, can usually drop the course, whereas a high school student with required reading is a captive audience. It does make me wonder though - how much of Bloom's royalties for this book are from high school required reading assignments? Its not exactly a subject for an audience other than paleontology and psychology majors and those in medical school going into psychiatric medicine. It would be appropriate for these concentrations, but not a 16 year old girl. Age appropriate-ness aside, it's not even the subject matters discussed that determined my one-star-rating; my rating was solely based upon Bloom's narrow scope of vision and bias that narrated this work. An attempt to explain the source of these deviances is valid; however, I had the strange feeling that (1) he was actually ADVOCATING some of these practices and thoughts we humans have developed, even attempting to normalize them, and, (2) he was taking quotes from other books literally, when they were only figures of speech - colloquialisms. As far as Essentialism goes (and Bloom's interpretation of it), all of those Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg trial should have been exonerated, because they were only acting within the scope of their own morality where what they believed was right! Hitler, Stalin, and Manson were innocent, as well! So was Son of Sam! Unlike some, I'm not a parent who wants to censor or removed from schools every book that offends me. I'm against the censoring of ANY book, for any reason. (What other parents allow their kids to read is THEIR business.) I didn't like this book because it was too biased and omitted many medically scientific facts, not to mention some plain common sense.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nargiz

    Sex, food, rock-&-roll (notes) Brain circuits that are generated as a part of reward mechanisms led a human(as well as animals) to experience pleasure. “How pleasure works ” by Paul Bloom touches upon the various aspects such as food, sex, music, imagination etc. that are essential elements of human pleasure system. The book contains of 8 chapters, and 6 of them are thematically divided. My expectation was to get more scientific explanation on the causes of human pleasure( e.g. which part of the b Sex, food, rock-&-roll (notes) Brain circuits that are generated as a part of reward mechanisms led a human(as well as animals) to experience pleasure. “How pleasure works ” by Paul Bloom touches upon the various aspects such as food, sex, music, imagination etc. that are essential elements of human pleasure system. The book contains of 8 chapters, and 6 of them are thematically divided. My expectation was to get more scientific explanation on the causes of human pleasure( e.g. which part of the brain is responsible for pleasure? How does nerve system work while we get pleasure?), but I didn't find any deep explanation for it. The book a little bit lack of academic backing sources. For example, “by all accounts, if you like pork, you would be perfectly eating a person [flesh], so long as you didn't know what you were eating.” Where does this claiming come from? Is there a study on that? Another example, “girls tend to find feminine toys more interesting that boys will”. Which study this claim is based on? I doubt this claim as it might be that the girls interesting in “feminine toys” because it is the option they have. In the first chapter, the author focuses on the pleasure one could get while eating other people flesh. Discussing cannibalism phenomenon, the author explains the reason behind is while eating human flesh one actually gets his or her essence (the book strong highlights essensialism almost in all chapters): “they eat them to preserve and protect their loved one's invisible essence”. The second part of the book talks more about pleasure from sex. The author argues that explanation of pleasure from sex through natural selection is based exclusively on reproductive function is not particularly accurate, as some sexual activities reproductively useless. He presents Miller's point on selection of a sexual partner. According to Miller, “Why should a man give a woman a useless diamond engagement ring, when he could buy her a nice big potato, which she could at least eat”.The answer is that the ring (in its essence) is a symbol of wealth and commitment. The book is heavily based on the US experience, no mentioning on how “love” works in cultures with arrange marriages. I guess the pleasure mechanisms are universal for people around the world, so this phenomena (or parts of it) shouldn't be explained in the context of one culture. “Irreplaceable” and “Performance” chapters narrate about the value of items we own and action we take (i.e. art activities or sport) respectively.The author gives a lot of examples from childhood development on how human learns to appreciate various things. In “Performance” part, the author talks about human experience to create something and get pleasure from the result. What I like about this part is the author's thoughts about an “ugly” performance. Actually, human nature enjoys not only beauty, but also ugliness : “there is a perverse fascination in deformity, which is perhaps rooted in a less redeeming part of human nature, a drive toward sadism and mockery.” How do Americans spend their leisure time? Daydreaming and fantasizing. We get pleasure more often from what we imagine rather than from what we have in real life. The problem in imaginative world vs. real one is “the fact that the mind doesn't fully care about the difference between what is known to be real versus known to be imagined.” The author gives an example: “ therapist sometimes advise the depressed to act as if they are happy.” Dreaming on imaginative world applies both for adults and children, but the latter tend to be more intense in their perception of it. Overall, the book is easy to read, but not deep enough for those who would like to explore the topic.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Forward: The Essence of Pleasure: We receive pleasure from all kinds of things: paintings, items owned by celebrities, wedding ring, baby shoes. Animal pleasures, human pleasures: those who seek water were the ones who survived. People are happiest we they are healthy well-fed, comfortable, safe, prosperous, knowledgeable, respected, non-celibate, and loved (Steven Pinker). Humans start off with a fixed list of pleasures and we can’t add to that list. Essentialism: What is someone/something real Forward: The Essence of Pleasure: We receive pleasure from all kinds of things: paintings, items owned by celebrities, wedding ring, baby shoes. Animal pleasures, human pleasures: those who seek water were the ones who survived. People are happiest we they are healthy well-fed, comfortable, safe, prosperous, knowledgeable, respected, non-celibate, and loved (Steven Pinker). Humans start off with a fixed list of pleasures and we can’t add to that list. Essentialism: What is someone/something really? A brick painted gold is not a gold bar. Someone who makes a racist comment is not necessarily a racist. Barak Obama is considered black even though he is half white. A tiger is still a tiger, even when made to look like a lion. Foodies: Armin Meiwes was a cannibal who arranged to kill and eat Bernd Brandes. Meiwes said that as he ate him he felt like he was consuming his essence and becoming more like him. Picky: Some of us are super tasters and have aversions to some foods. Everyday cannibalism: eating bread as a remembrance of Christ (taking in His essence). Perrier water is rated as tasting better (when the person knows it is Perrier). Most guests could not distinguish between Pate and dog food, diners rated wine with a brand name label as tasting better than a non famous wine label. Bedtricks: Coined from Shakespeare plays where someone thought they were sleeping with one person but later found out it was someone else. Examples: Jacob working several years to marry Rachel but Laban tricks Jacob into sleeping with Leah on his wedding night, which means they are now wedded. For animals pleasure is the carrot that drives them to reproductively useful activities. Females tend to be choosier about who they mate with because they invest more time (growing and nursing) their offspring than males. Headtricks: We all like to look at pretty faces (overt cues of health and youth, good genes). When women ovulate they are drawn to masculine, chiseled faces (good genes, hypermale males). Questions to ask when looking for a mate: male or female? Is the person a relative? (Chinese and Taiwan families adopt a child and raise it with their family for an arranged marriage and subsequent sexual and romantic relationships don’t occur) What is their sexual history? (Female virginity seems to matter more because males are more uncertain that a child is their own. Women know because they carry the baby for 9 months). Deeper: Smart people do well in this world. You want someone who will faithfully take care of the children, and someone who will support you. Most important trait is kindness. True Love: Don’t accept a partner who wanted you for rational reasons to begin with; look for a partner who is committed to staying with you because you are you. Irreplaceable: What money cannot buy: People, political power and influence, criminal justice, freedom of speech, marriage and procreative rights, exemption from military service/jury duty, political offices, divine grace, love and friendship. Market Failures: Thief in their house fails to take computers or money, but took Xbox instead. Graduate students at Harvard or Yale will fill out a survey for candy but not usually for money of equal/more value. Money is okay to give to kids as gifts but not to peers or those who have more money than you. We put prices on everything: Leave family to go to speaking engagement: this puts money over family. Wouldn’t sell wedding ring for $100 but would likely sell it for $10,000. Personal History: What can the object do for you? Car gets you around, watch tells time. Contact: If something was owned by someone famous then it’s value increases. Magic: People assume that the original owner’s essence remains with the object. Purchasers refused the offer of having the clothing or object cleaned because that would remove the essence. Interest in History: They used a duplicating machine and asked children to rate which object was worth more: the original (belonged to the Queen) or the duplicate. Children chose the original as the more valuable item. People are special: When they “duplicated” a hamster, children believed that the physical body was duplicated but not the mentality of the hamster. Children would most likely choose their mom over a duplicate mother. Armies in the clouds: Children who are attached to an object (blanket, stuffed animal) always choice the original. Children who were not attached to the original frequently chose the duplicate. Performance: Joshua Bell (one of the world’s greatest violinists) was in the Washington Subway playing a $3.5 million violin and no one knew who he was and appreciated his ability and the sound of his violin. People appreciate artwork more if it is by someone famous, even though that does not change the are art all. Ear Candy: humans prefer music to silence. Easy on the Eyes: people like to look at nature and tranquil scenes. Monkey prefer female hindquarters and high ranking male monkeys (celebrity worship). Displays and fitness: Musical skill (intelligence, creativity, stamina, motor control) is attractive. We tend to like artists because they are capable of creating things that give us pleasure. Performers: Effort and size matter. Performance Anxiety: Intention (was it meant to be art), created for an audience (meant to be displayed). Sport: We don’t value performances that were artificially enhanced. Performance gets ugly: Sharing our thoughts is what makes us human (share a performance). Art does not have to be beautiful? Imagination: Main leisure activity is participating in experiences we know are not real (books, videos, video games, TV). Psychologist is interested to know why we watch “Friends” verses spending time with actual friends. We enjoy imaginative experiences because at some level we don’t distinguish them form real ones. Small children can recognize when adults pretend (cry, cut paper). People’s actions are driven by how they think the world is. People wrote to JK Rowling and asked her to spare the “life” of some of the characters in her Harry Potter books. Alief (verses belief) – how things seem. Imagination is reality lite – useful substitute when the real pleasure is inaccessible, too risky, or too much work. Our emotions don’t care about whether an event or person is real or make-believe. Fiction is life with the dull bits left out. This is why “Friends” is more interesting than your friends. Safety and Pain: We enjoy fictions that make us cry, haunt our dreams and gross us out. The best stories: A movie is the closest thing to virtual reality. Our laughter is a form of applause. Safe: One you know something is fictional, you can expect your experience to be safe. Unsafe for children: even 4 year old grasp the concept of fiction: Batman is not real. Children are too easily overwhelmed by imagination. Sadistic and Horrible: There are video games where you can starve people and murder them. People enjoy scary movies because they are scary. Prepare for the worst: Play fighting helps us prepare for real fighting. Not so benign Masochism: pain leads to a blast of opiates that reduce the pain. You need to have control over the intensity of the pain. Daydreaming: When doing a repetitive task there are a network or regions that are active when people’s mind wanders. Some daydreamers imagine the worst, some real world delights Daydreams are less vivid than real life, we are not good director/screewriters, and day dreams have no limit. Why Pleasure Matters: Essential Nonsense: girl goes to art museum and favorite thing was the general’s shirt with his blood on it. Seeking out Essences: we escape our manufactured environments to hike, camp, canoe or hunt. Essentialism can drive us to become obsessed with material objects and ignore the needs of real people. Spirituality: there is more in the world than what strikes the senses. Religion has a more powerful mojo, because it provides tools that work at an experiential level. For other rituals, a person can become directly linked to this deeper reality, as in prayer or meditation or some other sort of transcendent personal experience. Awe: Can be triggered by music, art, powerful and famous people, sacred experiences, certain perceptual experiences, meditation and prayer. All emphasize the features of vastness – physical, social, intellectual, and otherwise. Imagine: It makes fiction, art, science, and religion all possible.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    *Pleasure runs deep* Why do we enjoy what we enjoy? Why does a bottle of Perrier seem to taste so much better than tap water, and why does that $200 bottle of wine seem to blow Two Buck Chuck out of the water? In both of these cases, the nature of the liquids inside the containers is not what makes the difference, but it is our beliefs about their invisible essences that shape our preferences and determine our enjoyment levels. In the author's own words: "What matters most is not the world as it *Pleasure runs deep* Why do we enjoy what we enjoy? Why does a bottle of Perrier seem to taste so much better than tap water, and why does that $200 bottle of wine seem to blow Two Buck Chuck out of the water? In both of these cases, the nature of the liquids inside the containers is not what makes the difference, but it is our beliefs about their invisible essences that shape our preferences and determine our enjoyment levels. In the author's own words: "What matters most is not the world as it appears to our senses. Rather, the enjoyment that we get from something derives from what we think that thing is." (p. xii) This theory of pleasure centers upon the concept of essentialism--"the notion that things have an underlying reality or true nature that one cannot observe directly and it is this hidden nature that really matters." (p. 9) As the author explains: "Our essentialism is not just a cold-blooded way of making sense of reality; it underlies our passions, our appetites, our desires." (p. 22) The book provides a fascinating tour of how our essentialist natures explain so much about what makes us buzz in delight...or cringe in disgust. It demystifies such curious oddities as to why we prefer bottled water (which often is just tap water, btw), why our beliefs about the artist and creative process determine how much we enjoy the artwork, why we value originals exponentially more than identical duplicates (would you shell out thousands for an identical knockoff Rolex?), why someone would pay $50,000 for a tape measure used by John F. Kennedy and be repulsed even at the thought of wearing a sweater owned by Hitler, and why we become so attached to our possessions. Essentialism also underlies the pleasure we get from transcending everyday reality via imagination, religion, and scientific inquiry. The book brilliantly lives up to its subtitle and illuminates "the new science of why we like what we like." Appropriately and emphatically, I found _How Pleasure Works_ to be highly pleasurable. (Confession: I actually liked it so much that I read it twice.) At the end of the book, the author notes that "People are drawn to seek out the deeper essence of things; we are curious, and the payoff for learning more is a click of satisfaction." (p. 218) Infinite clicks of satisfaction is what this book is all about!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Miller

    Surprisingly lacking in pith, argument, or content. An interesting essay on Essentialism and how humans experience this phenomenon, rather than arguing for the philosophical construct, which was straightforward and reasonable. But that was it. Surely some of the ideas presented are sufficiently questioned in today's increasingly observant and sophisticated world that to throw them out with casual abandon rather than providing any context or argument for or against is a bit shallow? A fluff book, Surprisingly lacking in pith, argument, or content. An interesting essay on Essentialism and how humans experience this phenomenon, rather than arguing for the philosophical construct, which was straightforward and reasonable. But that was it. Surely some of the ideas presented are sufficiently questioned in today's increasingly observant and sophisticated world that to throw them out with casual abandon rather than providing any context or argument for or against is a bit shallow? A fluff book, fast to read, offering all too little in the way of useful information or insight. Given such a universally compelling subject I am not sure if it isn't an accomplishment all by itself to be so bland. Once again I am distressed to encounter a significant personality in the intellectual community, a voice with some influence, who has a weirdly amoral take on harmful behavior. On page 209 while discussing immorality the author states that "Even if it is not unreasonable to take pleasure in sex with young children, say, it is an immoral pleasure, one to be discouraged." I would argue very strongly that it is indeed unreasonable, that desire for young children is always a dangerous pathology and should be treated as such with language and action. It is not just immoral, if acted upon it causes such great harm and damage and suffering that we can within all right call it evil. An example of a reasonable but immoral action might be to steal if you are hungry or to have an affair and be dishonest about it while remaining in a loveless marriage. Why use such an example in such a place? It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Is it some kind of decadent form of sophistication to mention such provocative content and gloss over it with talk of reason? There is a taint of poison here. It makes me very concerned. Also, look up the word reason. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Angelo Zimbelmann

    This book is very interesting in way it defines not only society’s view on value but why we think something is valuable.This book breaks down pleasure through value in two ways,value as in money and value as in meaningful to us as individuals and not a society as a whole.We feel pleasure when we have something valuable to us such as something that may cast a familiar memory of a time in which brought pleasure yet,that is not valued by an individual outside of this experience,yet something make a This book is very interesting in way it defines not only society’s view on value but why we think something is valuable.This book breaks down pleasure through value in two ways,value as in money and value as in meaningful to us as individuals and not a society as a whole.We feel pleasure when we have something valuable to us such as something that may cast a familiar memory of a time in which brought pleasure yet,that is not valued by an individual outside of this experience,yet something make an object valuable in both money and memory and that is history.History is the reason Picasso's original painting is worth more than a cheap knock off,sure it looks nice but it’s not the original and it’s not the same.The same thing goes for a family heirloom,something passed down for generations,such as gold pocket watch,this golden pocket watch means more and is more valuable to you because it has great history sure it may be worth lots of money but it more pleasure to you to have a piece of family history than money that is otherwise invaluable in terms of it’s history.This book is amazing in the way it opens our eyes to what we view as a whole as pleasure such as we don’t feel the same way if we are with the twin of someone we fell in love with compared to their identical sister.History of something great memories brings pleasure hence why we like classic cars because of their change in history but if that car happened to be owned by our grandfather the pleasure and value of it for us increases significantly.I seriously recommend reading this book if you value certain things or people or whatever and you want to know the physical and mental reason behind it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    A fun and quick read. Still in the philosophical vein, yes, but generally grounded in science, so it's all good. While yes, the only things any of us technically enjoy are dopamine & seratonin, Bloom works one level up from this & divides the book into several broad categories of things that give humans pleasure: * Foodies (food & drink) * Bedtricks (sex) * Irreplaceable (sentimentality) * Performance (arts & sports) * Imagination (books, movies, TV, video games, etc.) * Safety & pain (horror/tragedy, A fun and quick read. Still in the philosophical vein, yes, but generally grounded in science, so it's all good. While yes, the only things any of us technically enjoy are dopamine & seratonin, Bloom works one level up from this & divides the book into several broad categories of things that give humans pleasure: * Foodies (food & drink) * Bedtricks (sex) * Irreplaceable (sentimentality) * Performance (arts & sports) * Imagination (books, movies, TV, video games, etc.) * Safety & pain (horror/tragedy, sadism/masochism) In each section he talks about the evolutionary basis for why we like different these things, including lots of interesting examples & research results. Having been a psychology minor, a good chunk of it was work I was already familiar with, but there was definitely plenty of new ideas & information that was fun to learn about. There are connections to aesthetics & ethics in some sections, but everything is grounded in research or at the very least scientific hypothesis reasonably based on research. Interesting & worth the time.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Bloom is an entertaining writer and in this book he promises to explain why we take pleasure in the things we take pleasure from. He does this by explaining his theory of essentialism: how we impart essences to things, whether we realize it or not. He offers good arguments and explanations to support his view, but ultimately the book seems lacking. He doesn't really provide anything more than his essentialist view of the world, restated in various contexts. And while it's possible his view may b Bloom is an entertaining writer and in this book he promises to explain why we take pleasure in the things we take pleasure from. He does this by explaining his theory of essentialism: how we impart essences to things, whether we realize it or not. He offers good arguments and explanations to support his view, but ultimately the book seems lacking. He doesn't really provide anything more than his essentialist view of the world, restated in various contexts. And while it's possible his view may be correct, it doesn't feel like enough to base an entire book on. I would have liked a more detailed, critical examination of specific cases, and more practical examples. There seems to be a lot still untouched by the fairly superficial chapters and I think more explanation would be needed if he looked at the more inconvenient details instead of skimming over the surface as he does. Apart from gaining an essentialist perspective from which to view human pleasure, I don't really feel as if I was much enlightened by this book. Interesting read, but I had hoped for more.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tfindlay

    I haven't read this book but from what I understand from looking at several reviews the author contends that what we value is the presumed essence of a thing. Much of the essence of a thing may involve the objects history. A sweater worn by George Clooney is more attractive than a brand new identical sweater (or George's sweater after it has been dry cleaned). Although I don't believe the author mentions this in the book it seems to me that the essence of a thing is not so much an inherent prope I haven't read this book but from what I understand from looking at several reviews the author contends that what we value is the presumed essence of a thing. Much of the essence of a thing may involve the objects history. A sweater worn by George Clooney is more attractive than a brand new identical sweater (or George's sweater after it has been dry cleaned). Although I don't believe the author mentions this in the book it seems to me that the essence of a thing is not so much an inherent property of an item but the meaning we attach to the thing.

  30. 5 out of 5

    DeAnna Knippling

    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.

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