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Nerd Talk – Why do we have guilty pleasures?

Posted on April 7, 2016 by Maple Creek

What is it about bad things that we love? I  don’t mean foods that’s aren’t good for you, or even why it feels better to sit on the couch and watch TV than exercise for a half an hour. However I won’t lie that I would rather sit and watch Netflix with a big bowl of chocolate covered ice cream than almost anything else.
No my question is poised and pointed towards those pieces of pop culture that are bad but we just love them and can’t bear to let go.
Books, movie, TV shows, even music can all be lumped into the same category.
Really I guess I’m asking why do we have guilty pleasures? What makes them a guilty pleasure?
Over the weekend I downloaded a free copy of a book I saw advertised on my FaceBook feed. It had some good reviews and hey it’s free not like it’s gonna cost me anything even if it bad.
What I didn’t expect is getting sucked into the story to the point that I finished the book in about two days.
Normally this would be the sign of a good book. It kept your attention and made you want to finish the book to see what happens next. Normally with these books you can’t tell what is going to happen next there are twists and turns and ups and downs.
Unfortunately that was not the case for this book.
I can’t say what kept me glued to my e-reader for two days to read this book only to find there was two more books in the series.
The plot, though interesting and new to me, rely heavily on tried and true stereotypes and tropes of the fantasy genres. Poor girls discovers she is bound for greatness and saves the day/country/world while finding love(s) along the way. I bet you can think of many stories that fall under exactly that very basic plot.
Even though I knew how it was going to end; the girl saves the day, the girl is torn between two lovers, the girl is discovered as coming from some great and powerful (possibly royal) family, I couldn’t pull myself away.
It wasn’t hard to tell where it going to end not at all.
The twists and turns I took in the book were barely twist and hardly turns. The mountains and valleys I had hopes to explore were barely hills. And yet I devoured the story in a very short time.
Trust me it wasn’t the writing style that kept me glued to it either. I saw many spelling mistakes and weird continuity problems. Yet I found myself clicking the purchase button for the second book.
Why do we do this? What is it about these stories, however they are conveyed, that brings us back to them time after time. What brings us to making the choice, sometimes like I did without really thinking about it, and actually purchasing the book or movie or whatever?
All of us are guilty of this. We are all those things we call about guilty pleasures. Things we know are bad, just not good at all, and yet we love it and covet it.
A psychological study by Yale professor Ravi Dhar showed that sometimes feelings of guilt, normally a negative emotion, can actually increase the feeling of pleasure a person feels.
The study was inspired after watching a coworker eat a bar of chocolate. She felt both guilty for eating but happy she did. Dhar explained that for certain items, such as chocolate in this instance, can create an increase of pleasure because you feel guilty about it.
The reasoning behind the increased pleasure has to do with how ” guilt and pleasure are often tightly coupled in people’s minds, so activating one of these concepts can draw out the other.”
Dhar goes on to discuss that the positive aspects in the negative item – be it show or in my case this poorly written book – will be emphasized when you feel guilty about it. When you feel guilty about loving something what you are seeing is the positive bit and pieces of the item. Although this is something you don’t realize you are doing.
If someone was to ask why do you love it, what would your answer be? Could you even think of one right away. Or would it be like my answer “I don’t know I just do,” and, “Shut up don’t make fun of me.”
So why we have guilty pleasures seems to be because the guilt centre in our brains activate the pleasure centre to a point of increase pleasure. The very thing we truly like about the item or thing is, in its entirety, that we feel guilty about liking it.
Yes I feel guilty that I liked this book so much I bought the next book in the series. Actually I bough the next two, again I’m going to have  to ask you to not make fun of me. However just because I feel guilty, and I would probably burn with shame if any of my friends read the same book, I don’t think I could say I would never read it again.
For all it’s flaws: poorly written, inconsistency, plot holes and more, I found myself thoroughly liking, possibly loving, this book. Its awful and I should hate it, but I can’t.

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