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How Pleasure Works

Paul Bloom

When Hermann Goering in prison after war awaiting execution, he was resigned to his fate. The only thing that upset him was finding out that the precious Vermeer he'd acquired during the war was actually a modern forgery.

We actually think real Picasso is aesthetically better than an exact duplicate. Can only be called snobbery bc you're applying a false standard. It's not rational - if you liked a painting when you thought it was a Renoir, why shd you like it less when it turns out to be by Joe Bloggs?

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Are you sure you could tell the difference between red and white wine? Serve white wine in a black glass and invite drinkers to tell you what sort of wine it is.

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Yet we care: for a painting, it matters who the painter was - for a story, it matters whether it is truth or fiction -for a steak, we care what sort of animal it came from.

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Bowerbirds are a lot like Pablo Picasso sexually selected for creativity. Just like Picasso, male bowerbird sets up a display. Female bowerbirds are discerning and brutal critics - they go round and inspect all the bowers, then mate with the creator of the best one. The best 'artist' gets to mate with a dozen females, which then go off to raise kids alone. The least creative remain celibate.

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Animal paintings - they don't actually know what they're doing - they don't plan their work, they don't admire their creations, and most of all, they have to be stopped: if keeper didn't take pic away, they just keep going, creating pics of brown sludge.

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Strikingly different to young kids, who initiate creation, stop when it's finished, admire their work, and show it to others.

How do you spend your leisure time? Not with sex: an American spends on average, 4 minutes a day, about the same as spend filling out tax forms. Main choice of escape is into alternate worlds - video games or TV. This is a strange way for an animal to choose to spend time - it wd make more sense to build things or learn things, or teach yr kids things, or build relationships etc. Instead, even 2 yos pretend to be lions, teens play vid games and adults escape into movies or porn.

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Emotional reaction to fictional characters. JK Rowling said that as she was writing the final HP story, she was getting letters from adults as well as children, begging her to spare the lives of various beloved characters.

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Average person's knowledge of lawyers, ER, police depts, preisons etc, is not based on personal exp or non-fictional accounts; it comes from stories, primarily TV ones.

Grand Canyon Skywalk - quite an effort to get there, and package is quite expensive, but it's common for people to get there and not be able to walk out onto it - emotional brain overrules the rational. Similarly it's very difficult to pull the trigger of a gun to your head, even though you know for sure it's not loaded.

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And we find it hard to separate representation from object represented - hard to eat fudge baked to look like dog poo. Get very anxious when asked to throw darts at picture of a baby, or to cut up photos of a loved one.

So we see representations as being quite real. Helps explain why picture of an attractive naked woman smiling at you is nearly as good as the real thing, especially since the real thing tends to be in quite short supply

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Fiction is more exciting than real life: more interesting things happen; all the dull bits are left out; author can tell you what characters are thinking; can jump across long periods of time and find out what happens, without having to wait

Twilight Zone episode where a thug dies and goes to a place where his every wish is satisfied. At first he has a great time, but he quickly gets bored and tells his guide that he doesn't belong in Paradise; he should be in the 'other place'. "But what makes you think this is Heaven? This is the 'other place'"

We are risen apes not fallen angels

Nouns carry weight - should say 'children with autism' rather than 'autistics' bc there is more to the child than his autism.

We learn disgust - young kids will happily eat dog shit

Americans drink more bottled water than coffee, milk, beer combined - yet in blind test can't tell diff bt tap and bottled; CEO of Perrier invited to pick the Perrier out of 7 samples - he got it on the fifth try - the thing is, to appreciate it's great taste, you have to know it's Perrier.

Kids think apples or bananas taste better if you take them out of a McDonalds bag

Social study done 50 years ago, when ethical standards lower. Got housewives to rank household items. Then experimenter picked two items which she'd ranked equally, and told housewife she cd choose one to take home. After she'd made the choice, asked her to rank them again, and of course the chosen one has moved up the list. (Told you it wasn't ethical: after study finished experimenter told housewife he was lying and she wasn't allowed to take the item home. Some burst into tears, others threw things at him)

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Children start off completely credulous, so when you show them a magic box that duplicates objects, they have no trouble believing it. (After all see 2D photocopier)

Porn and celeb worship not exclusively human.Study where monkeys cd choose one of two rewards - either some sweet fruit juice or look at a picture. Turned out there were two types of pictures a male monkey wd give up his fruit juice for: a female's hindquarters or high-status senior monkeys.

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Spelling bees are fine, but when yr picking a candidate for grad school or a job, yr not going to select a champ speller, or expert at video games

We have evolved in a completely different environment, and this mismatch between our Stone Age brains and modern situations causes many problems. Didn't have to deal with TVs, computers, alarm clocks, flor lighting, and, above all, billions of people. Obv eg of obesity - for almost all our history it has made sense to grab as many calories as can, when can. We shd treat provocations of strangers as completely irrelevant, but somehow we can't, so we have road rage and flame wars.

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