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Homo hedonicus

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Michel Cabanac de Lafregeyre
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Since the origin of life, animals have behaved so as to seek environments favorable for their physiology and survival. All basic physiological needs are met by behaviors, and, of course, the fi rst stage of sexual reproduction is also behavioral. Behavior is therefore the fi rst and most powerful response by an animal to achieve its physiological aims and maximize its chance of survival. The adaptation of behavior to the physiological needs is made possible because the central nervous system receives useful information on the state of the environment as well as that of the body itself (Figure 2.1). The present chapter deals with the way these signals participate in the various physiological regulations that maintain a stable milieu intérieur through behavior. A deliberate mentalistic attitude is adopted in the following. Such an approach proved fruitful for the understanding of the role of pleasure in the case of decision making when non-physiological motivations enter into play (Cabanac, 1992). The present chapter, however, concentrates only on sensory pleasure. The mechanisms described will be mostly short term, but the long term will also be envisaged. Physiology and Behavior From the time of the Greek philosophers for whom behavior was biology, there has been a continuous tradition for consideration of behavior as a part of physiology. The fi rst students of what we now consider to be the Figure 2.
Michel Cabanac de Lafregeyre
added a research item
This little book describes a research on pleasure, taking place over the last thirty years. The pleasure under study was not a specific pleasure, such as sexual pleasure or the pleasure of playing a game, but was rather pleasure in general as a motivation of our behavior. When the time to find a title came, I first thought of Ergo in order to underline the process taking place in mind when, examining the premises of a problem, the researcher is driven to an irresistible conclusion. Then I thought of The Obsession of Pleasure, to indicate the omnipresent fixation on the problem under study, until the liberating 'Eureka'! But the researcher's "unsatiable curiosity", like that of the Elephant child, is neither contemplative nor sad. In the experimental sciences the passage à l'acte is the poursuit of successive answers to never ending series of questions. This dynamic and joyous process is evoqued by the present and final title, The Quest for Pleasure.