Paul Bloom’s subject is well chosen. One of the huge problems facing any cognitive scientist is that none of us really has a clue why we like what we like. Most of us can’t really distinguish – certainly not in advance – pleasure from relief. Advertising men and branding specialists know this all too well. Their job is to create anxiety and simultaneously offer to alleviate it. The biggest part of consumer pleasure is imaginary: the pleasure of imagining the pleasure you’ll feel when you buy whatever it is.
But we still don’t know how it works, and we still succumb. So the prospect of a ‘new science’ – hedonics? eudaimology? – held out in Bloom’s title is genuinely exciting. Unfortunately we don’t get it. What we do get is a Grand Tour of research into all