From our enjoyment of music to our cravings for chocolate, from our love for children and family to our attraction to things of beauty, this book embarks on an intriguing and accessible exploration of the purpose of pleasure in our lives and in human history. How did pleasure evolve and why? How does it develop in children? How does the pursuit of pleasure play a critical role in brain development? The Pleasure Instinct explores everything we need to know about our urge to feel good.
In The Pleasure Instinct, pioneering neurobiologist Gene Wallenstein takes you on a delightful tour through the relationship between human beings and pleasure, from its biological origins, through its role in brain development, to the latest findings that have direct applications today. The pleasure instinct, he contends, is evolution's ancient tool for prodding us in the directions that maximize our reproductive success. This same drive has created a staggering panorama of behaviors, pathologies, and cultural idioms in our modern lives that often bewilder and beguile.
Beginning with the five senses, Wallenstein explores the evolution of pleasure by asking such simple but penetrating questions as: How does music soothe our souls? What do we love so much about chocolate? How can particular aromas trigger vivid memories? Why are certain textures, shapes, and colors more pleasing than others? Wallenstein then reveals that in each case, the pleasure instinct delivers a distinct advantage, encourages normal brain growth, and enhances our ability to use and benefit from our senses.
This fascinating trek to the nexus of evolutionary biology and psychology goes on to examine the impact of pleasure in our everyday lives. Wallenstein reveals how the pleasure instinct influences everything from how we choose our mates to why we laugh at jokes, from our favorite dance rhythms to our preferences in art, perfume, and amusement park rides. He also takes a look at the dark side of pleasure, seeking to unearth the evolutionary roots of addiction, fetishes, and other excesses in the pursuit of pleasure.
Why does pleasure exist? When Wallenstein asks this question against the backdrop of evolution, the answers reveal the framework of a new world view that is beginning to change the way we think about human nature. Filled with fascinating insights into human behavior, this book will challenge your preconceptions and give you a new understanding of what drives the pursuit of pleasure.
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