chapter  4
30 Pages


Sigmund Freud maintained that humankind’s mental life began in fantasy; the oldest primary mental process was the pleasure-pain principle described as the “waking tendency to shut out painful experiences.”2 The pleasure principle dictates that we strive to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. It seems reasonable to assume, then, that an important criterion for entertainment is to bring pleasure. Many forms of entertainment bring direct pleasure; going to a movie, a ballgame, or an amusement park might all result in pleasure. Yet many people seem to be entertained by experiences that, at least at first glance, would seem far from pleasurable-long, painful sports workouts or movies that bring tears of sadness or screams of terror. What is it about these experiences that makes them entertaining?