Psychological hedonism – the idea that people tend to act in ways that maximize pleasure and minimize displeasure – has a decidedly poor reputation among academics who study human behaviour. Opinions range from outright rejection to those who believe it to be intuitively obvious, but untestable and therefore unhelpful. In this book, the author introduces an empirically testable and useful theory of psychological hedonism based on contemporary theory and research in the emerging field of affective neuroscience. He goes on to argue that people are genetically endowed with a tendency towards psychological hedonism as a function of Darwinian processes. This view of psychological hedonism in light of its Darwinian origins – thereinafter referred to as Darwinian Hedonism – is essential to address the growing global epidemic of unhealthy behavior, such as poor diet, physical inactivity, and substance use.
1. Introduction; Part I. Unhealthy behavior; 2. The epidemic of unhealthy behavior; 3. Understanding the causes of behavior; 4. A causal chain of behavior; 5. Contents of the mind; 6. What are the causes of unhealthy behavior?; PART II. Psychological hedonism; 7. Psychological hedonism and its problems; 8. Reformulating psychological hedonism; 9. Pleasure, displeasure, and affective valence; 10. Hedonic response; 11. Sources of hedonic response; 12. Reward, incentive salience, and hedonic motivation; 13. Incentive conditioning: from hedonic response to hedonic motivation; 14. Hedonic versus reflective motivation; 15. From hedonic motivation to unhealthy behavior; 16. The theory of hedonic motivation; PART III. Darwinian hedonism; 17. Darwinian hedonism; 18. Neo-darwinism; 19. The evolutionary function of psychological hedonism; 20. The phylogenetic development of psychological hedonism; PART IV. Darwinian hedonism and unhealthy behavior; 21. Motivational mismatch; 22. Darwinian hedonism and unhealthy behavior; 23. Darwinian hedonism and hedonic desire for calorie-dense foods; 24. Darwinian hedonism and hedonic dread of physical activity; 25. Darwinian hedonism and hedonic desire for smoking, drinking, and drug use; 26. Health behavior interventions; 27. Darwinian hedonism and health-behavior policy; 28. Darwinian hedonism and political will; 29. Conclusions and future directions; Appendix a: hedonic motivation and other motivation concepts; Appendix b: anticipating criticisms of darwinian hedonism