How Pleasure Works: Love and Music

Some more nuggets of wisdom from Paul Bloom’s How Pleasure Works.


“If you stick with me for my intelligence, wealth or beauty — as opposed to for me, myself — then our relationship is fragile. The psychologist Steven Pinker outlines the worry here:

How can you be so sure that a prospective partner won’t leave the minute is rational to do so — say, when a 10-out-of-10 partner moves in next door. One answer is: don’t accept a partner who wanted you for rational reasons to begin with; look for a partner who is committed to staying with you because you are you.

This commitment might seem irrational, but it is an attractive irrationality, and if the person is interested in you as well, this can be very attractive. “Murmuring that your lover’s looks, earning powers, and IQ meet your minimal standards would probably kill the romantic mood,” Pinker notes. “The way to a person’s heart is to declare the opposite — that you’re in love because you can’t help it.””


“The psychologist Daniel Levitin suggests that synchronous song and dance evolved as social adaptations. Music can help coordinate war parties, it can make collective tasks easier to do, and most of all, it can establish emotional bonds with other people. If he is right, then the story of the evolution of music would be much the same as the story of the evolution of other traits that connect people with their groups, such as feelings of solidarity and community.

Levitin’s account captures something deep about musical pleasure, something that has been missed by many scholars. This is the important of movement. Most languages have a single word for both singing and dancing, and when people listen to music while perfectly still, parts of the motor cortex and cerebellum — the segments of the brain that have to do with moving around — are active. This is why we so often rock to music, an impulse that can be irresistible to a child.

There is evidence that if you move in synchrony with other people, you like them more, you feel more connected to them, and you are more generous to them. Song and dance is the ultimate team-building exercise.”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s