The science behind pleasure and happiness is sourced in the fields of neuroscience, medicine, and psychology. It draws heavily on research summarized in the book The Hacking of the American Mind, by Dr. Robert Lustig (2017).
There are seven key differences:
Pleasure is short-lived; happiness is long-lived.
Pleasure is visceral; happiness is ethereal.
Pleasure is taking; happiness is giving.
Pleasure can be achieved with substances; happiness cannot be achieved with substances.
Pleasure is experienced alone; happiness is experienced in social groups.
The extremes of pleasure all lead to addiction, whether they be substances or behaviors. Yet there’s no such thing as being addicted to too much happiness.
Finally and most importantly, pleasure is tied to dopamine (the pleasure biochemical/neurotransmitter), and happiness is tied to serotonin (the happiness biochemical/neurotransmitter).
To understand how individual happiness and pleasure impact collective culture and purpose, here are a few big questions:
Is happiness important? (Yes)
Is happiness a universal human feeling? (Yes)
Do other animals experience happiness? (Yes)
Is there a scientific basis for happiness? (Yes)
If you substitute the word “pleasure” for “happiness” above, the same answers apply. Now we must ask:
Are happiness and pleasure the same thing? (No)
Do people sometimes equate pleasure with happiness? (Yes)
Is there scientific evidence that differentiates the two? (Yes)
One way to discern the difference is this (no pun meant):
Curated by Irshad Salim from WhatsApp share by DesPardes readers