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Darwinian Hedonism and the Epidemic of Unhealthy Behavior

ISBN: 9781107527201
ISBN: 9781107527201
Διαστάσεις 23 × 15 cm



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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 behavior. 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.

  • Proposes a new theory of human behavior
  • Reframes the ancient and intuitive principle of psychological hedonism
  • Based on contemporary affective neuroscience and neo-Darwinian evolutionary biology
  • Can be applied to the global epidemic of unhealthy behavior, which is argued to be the main driver for the rising rates of chronic disease


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.