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Illustration by Paul Spella (From Left: Getty Images; Courtesy One Day University, Getty Images)

 

The Science of Pleasure: Why We Like What We Like

When Steven Schragis started One Day University, he had one goal: to find the most popular professors at each school. At Yale, that was Paul Bloom, whose Psychology 101 course was in such demand, it caused scheduling problems: The Psych 101 classes were  supposed to be evenly divided between the spring and fall semesters, but everybody wanted to take it when Bloom taught it.

“When I started the company, students couldn’t get into his classes and I thought, We need that guy. I was looking for the most popular professor at each school. Not the tenured professor. Not the head of the department. The one that students said, ‘I love taking the class with him.’”

Bloom’s One Day University lecture, “The Science of Pleasure: Why We Like What We Like,” seems like it might be a straightforward talk, but Schragis says there’s more to it: “What gives people pleasure, or what makes people happy, they are somewhat interchangeable, it’s not what you would think.”

In one example, Bloom details why someone once paid nearly a million dollars for a set of golf clubs (spoiler — they were owned by JFK). What’s going on in the brain that adds so much value to a few woods? What gives pleasure to one person could be worthless to someone else. Bloom dives into why we collect the things we collect and why some people roll their eyes over it.

Bloom is “absolutely fascinating and always gets you to think in new ways,” Schragis says. “He’s just so damn interesting.”

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