Pleasure describes the broad class of mental states that humans and other animals experience as positive, enjoyable, or worth seeking. It includes more specific mental states such as happiness, entertainment, enjoyment, ecstasy, and euphoria. In psychology, the pleasure principle describes pleasure as a positive feedback mechanism, motivating the organism to recreate in the future the situation which it has just found pleasurable. According to this theory, organisms are similarly motivated to avoid situations that have caused pain in the past.
The experience of pleasure is subjective and different individuals will experience different kinds and amounts of pleasure in the same situation. Many pleasurable experiences are associated with satisfying basic biological drives, such as eating, exercise or sex. Other pleasurable experiences are associated with social experiences and social drives, such as the experiences of accomplishment, recognition, and service. The appreciation of cultural artifacts and activities such as art, music, and literature is often pleasurable.
In recent years, significant progress has been made in understanding the brain mechanisms underlying pleasure. One of the key discoveries was made by Kent C. Berridge who has shown that pleasure is not a unitary experience. Rather, pleasure consists of multiple brain processes including liking, wanting and learning subserved by distinct yet partially overlapping brain networks. In particular, this research has been helped by the use of objective pleasure-elicited reactions in humans and other animals such as the behavioral ‘liking’/‘disliking’ facial expressions to tastes that are homologous between humans and many other mammals.
Recreational drug use can be pleasurable: some drugs, illicit and otherwise, directly create euphoria in the human brain when ingested. The mind's natural tendency to seek out more of this feeling (as described by the pleasure principle) can lead to dependence and addiction. Berridge and Robinson have proposed that addiction results from drugs hijacking the ‘wanting’ system through a sensitization of the mesolimbic dopamine system.
Famous quotes containing the word pleasure:
“They [parents] can help the children work out schedules for homework, play, and television that minimize the conflicts involved in what to do first. They can offer moral support and encouragement to persist, to try again, to struggle for understanding and mastery. And they can share a childs pleasure in mastery and accomplishment. But they must not do the job for the children.”
—Dorothy H. Cohen (20th century)
“The most remarkable aspect of the transition we are living through is not so much the passage from want to affluence as the passage from labor to leisure.... Leisure contains the future, it is the new horizon.... The prospect then is one of unremitting labor to bequeath to future generations a chance of founding a society of leisure that will overcome the demands and compulsions of productive labor so that time may be devoted to creative activities or simply to pleasure and happiness.”
—Henri Lefebvre (b. 1901)
“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.
—George Orwell (19031950)