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Hedonic Adaptation & The Pleasure Paradox

Posted by Paleoliberal 
Hedonic Adaptation & The Pleasure Paradox
August 09, 2010 11:56PM
The Pleasure Paradox

William Bennett: "Happiness is like a cat, If you try to coax it or call it, it will avoid you; it will never come. But if you pay no attention to it and go about your business, you'll find it rubbing against your legs and jumping into your lap."

Suppose John likes to collect stamps. According to most models of behavior, including not only utilitarianism, but most economic, psychological and social conceptions of behavior, it is believed that John likes collecting stamps because he gets pleasure from collecting stamps. Stamp collecting is an avenue towards acquiring pleasure. However, if you tell John this, he will likely disagree. He does get pleasure from collecting stamps, but this is not the process that explains why he collects stamps. It is not as though he says, “I must collect stamps so I can obtain pleasure”. Collecting stamps is not just a means toward pleasure. He just likes collecting stamps.

This paradox is often spun around backwards, to illustrate that pleasure and happiness cannot be reverse-engineered. If for example you heard that collecting stamps was very pleasurable, and began a stamp collection as a means towards this happiness, it would inevitably be in vain. To achieve happiness, you must not seek happiness directly, you must strangely motivate yourself towards things unrelated to happiness, like the collection of stamps.

The hedonistic paradox would probably mean that if one sets the goal to please oneself too highly then the mechanism would in fact jam itself.

Link

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Hedonic Adaptation

Unlike couples who choose a house because of its open floor plan, fancy kitchens, great light, or spacious bedrooms, Professor Diener arrived at his decision after considering hedonic-adaptation research.

“One home was close to hiking trails, making going hiking very easy,” he said in an e-mail. “Thinking about the research, I argued that the hiking trails could be a factor contributing to our happiness, and we should worry less about things like how pretty the kitchen floor is or whether the sinks are fancy. We bought the home near the hiking trail and it has been great, and we haven’t tired of this feature because we take a walk four or five days a week.”

Scholars have discovered that one way consumers combat hedonic adaptation is to buy many small pleasures instead of one big one. Instead of a new Jaguar, Professor Lyubomirsky advises, buy a massage once a week, have lots of fresh flowers delivered and make phone calls to friends in Europe. Instead of a two-week long vacation, take a few three-day weekends.

“We do adapt to the little things,” she says, “but because there’s so many, it will take longer.”

BEFORE credit cards and cellphones enabled consumers to have almost anything they wanted at any time, the experience of shopping was richer, says Ms. Liebmann of WSL Strategic Retail. “You saved for it, you anticipated it,” she says.

In other words, waiting for something and working hard to get it made it feel more valuable and more stimulating.

LINK



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/09/2010 11:57PM by Paleoliberal.
Re: Hedonic Adaptation & The Pleasure Paradox
August 11, 2010 06:15AM
That's a very good article.
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