Spending Your Pleasure Points

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2024-06-05 00:00:08

At the beginning of The Muppet Movie, Bernie the Agent convinces Kermit to try out show business by suggesting that Kermit "could make millions of people happy." In general, it's common for people to do nice things for others, such as giving gifts or telling jokes, with the motivation of making others happy. But do such things actually make people happier in the long run?

The idea of the hedonic treadmill is well known, and I'm not an expert on the science of it. Here I'll just discuss how my own subjective experience agrees with a "hedonic treadmill"-type view. This page should be considered a random blog post for which I haven't done any scholarship.

In a YouTube comment I can't now find, someone said that he limits his consumption of ASMR videos because the effect diminishes over time if he does it too much. Of course, similar trends are true for tasty food, sexual pleasure, and just about any other source of enjoyment. It's possible that this is just sensory-specific satiety, and that new sources of stimulation could provide new bursts of pleasure. However, based on my own experience, I think there's also a general trend that if you experience a lot of pleasure now, you'll experience less pleasure some time later to make up for it, perhaps with some exceptions. For example, if you have an awesome weekend partying, then you may feel less pleasure from working at your job during the subsequent week than if you have a more sedate weekend.

The situation feels sort of like having a finite "pleasure budget" that you can spend on different activities. The more intense the pleasure is, the more "pleasure points" you spend at once. And as with passing the "Go" square in Monopoly, your pleasure budget gradually replenishes itself over time. If you've used up all your pleasure points and feel temporarily anhedonic, then you have to wait a while for your "pleasure bank account" to fill back up.

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