The Origins of Pleasure

“I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.”

– Oscar Wilde

Pleasure and pain, two sides of the same coin many would argue. In the last talk in the series Understanding Happiness on iTunes U, Yale Psychology Professor Paul Bloom explores the origins of pleasure and it’s impact on our happiness. In this interesting TED talk, Professor Bloom explains that human beings are Essentialists.

People are natural born essentialists. We don’t just respond to things as we see them, or feel them or hear them, rather our response is conditioned on our beliefs of what they really are, where they came from, what they are made of, what their hidden nature is . . . not just how we think about things, but how we react to things.

Bloom gives some fascinating examples of people’s experience of an item and how their brain actually responds (as seen through an fMRI) when they think an item is authentic (expensive) or a fake (inexpensive) – such as wine, art, etc.  The brain reacts very differently when given different information, even if the item itself is exactly the same (same wine – either poured from a box or from an expensive bottle, for example.)

I had a somewhat similar experience to this last night.  My dear friend Victoria lent me a dvd by the comic, Tim Minchin. At first, I thought I had an idea of who this comic was, I had created a whole persona. His looks confirmed my thought and I didn’t like him too much in the beginning, and I thought he looked weird.  However, by the end of the dvd I thought he was brilliant!  And as such, I saw him differently, I thought he was better looking and my whole response to him was different.  I have no idea if this is really along the lines of what Paul Bloom is describing, as I wasn’t under an fMRI at the time.  However, it works for me.

Bloom’s talk is interesting and thought provoking.  But now, can I actually say I Understand Happiness any better than when I embarked on this iTunes U course.  Well no, not necessarily.  But it’s been a really interesting, educational and fun ride!



I hope you enjoy Paul Bloom’s TED talk at iTunes U, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on pleasure and pain.

And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.





3 thoughts on “The Origins of Pleasure

  1. I love Tim Minchin! He is incredible. He’s very popular here in Australia.
    Thanks for these posts about Understanding Happiness, I’ve been enjoying them. What’s next?


    • Thanks for taking the time to comment Maddie. Yes Tim Minchin is incredible. Not sure what’s next on my posting agenda – I’m thinking about another iTunes U course The Edge of Knowledge which includes an introduction to String Theory – which I’ve always wanted to understand.


  2. Pingback: Elusive Pleasures and Contentment « drchana

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