the_pleasure_principle.pdf - Human-Centered Computing The Pleasure Principle Robert R Hoffman and Patrick J Hayes Institute for Human and Machine

the_pleasure_principle.pdf - Human-Centered Computing The...

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H u m a n - C e n t e r e d C o m p u t i n g 86 1094-7167/04/$20.00 © 2004 IEEE IEEE INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS tors to the history of psychology, Aristotle outranks all others in terms of the number of critical concepts he intro- duced, including the notion of the association of ideas, the law of frequency and the affiliated concept of memory strength, the notion of stage theories of development, the idea of distinguishing types of mental processes or facul- ties, the idea of scales of nature and comparisons between humans and animals, and last but not least, the Pleasure Principle. History of the Pleasure Principle In his Physics , Aristotle wrote, “All moral excellence is concerned with bodily pleasures and pains.” 1–3 What he was getting at is that animals as well as humans experi- ence pleasure and pain but that a human who lets such factors alone direct his or her behavior would be intem- perate, impetuous, brutish, and self-indulgent to excess. He further said, “[In] the case of bodily enjoyments … the man who pursues excessive pleasures and avoids exces- sive pains like hunger and thirst, heat and cold, and all the discomforts of touch and taste, not from choice but in op- position to it and to his reasoning, is described as inconti- nent [driven to excess by an uncontrollable appetite] with- out any added determinant [or cause of behavior].” 2 Humans are distinguished from mere brutes by having within them “a rational principle,” but being the animals that we are, we still share the universal Pleasure Principle. Based on his studies of trial-and-error learning in ani- mals, Edwin Thorndike proposed a variant 4 of the princi- ple: “Any act in a given situation producing satisfaction becomes associated with that situation, so that when the situation recurs, that act is more likely to recur,” recapitu- lating Aristotle’s notion of association and his law of fre- quency. This general idea for a causal explanation of be- havior in terms of affect was so critical and useful that even the Behaviorists such as John Watson thought they could embrace it in a theory devoid of all the cooties of mental- ism, referring to behaviors that get “stamped in” because they are “reinforced” and behaviors that get “stamped out” because they lead to punishment. 5 In Sigmund Freud’s work, 6 which also echoed many Aristotelian notions, the principle was transformed to the more familiar “Humans behave so as to seek pleasure and avoid pain.” This was the force of the id, in contrast to the “reality principle” that governed the ego. In the early 1900s, the often-misunder- stood “efficiency experts” (such as Frank Gilbreth 7 ) were likewise cognizant of the principle. They wanted to in- crease worker productivity—not just for its own sake but also to eliminate wasteful work practices and increase worker health and psychological satisfaction.
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