Herbert James Campbell

The Human Brain
The Human Brain

Books Reviewed

The Pleasure Areas

Herbert James Campbell, a renowned English neurologist, found in twenty-five years of research a universal principle which dominates our brain: the pleasure principle.

This sounds like Freud, but it has little to do with psychoanalysis or psychology. What we are facing here are facts proven by natural science, by neurology.

In 1973 Campbell published his book The Pleasure Areas which represents a summary of many years of neurological research.

Campbell succeeded in demonstrating that our entire thinking and living is primarily motivated by pleasure. Pleasure not only in a tactile-sensuous or sexual way, but also as non-sensuous, intellectual or spiritual pleasure. With these findings, the old theoretical controversy if man was primarily a biological or a spiritual being, became obsolete. For it is in the first place our striving for pleasure that induces certain interests in us, that drives us to certain actions and that lets us choose certain ways.

During childhood and depending on the outside stimuli we are exposed to, certain preferred pathways are traced in our brain, which means that specific neural connections are established that serve the information flow.

The number of those connections is namely an indicator for intelligence. The more of those preferred pathways exist in the brain of a person, the more lively appears that person, the more interested she will be in different things, and the quicker she will achieve integrating new knowledge into existing memory.

High memorization, Campbell found, is namely depending on how easily new information can be added-on to existing pathways of information. Logically, the more of those pathways exist, the better! Many preferred pathways make for high flexibility and the capacity to adapt easily to new circumstances.

Campbell’s research indicates that the repression of pleasure that is since centuries part of our Judeo-Christian culture, has negatively infringed upon human evolution and impaired the integrity of our psychosomatic health.

Not only neurologists such as Campbell have nowadays thought about the basic functions of life and living, but also people who were formerly active in totally different fields of science.

The American scientists Ashley Montagu and James W. Prescott had very different points of departure for their extensive research.

Montagu wanted to know why small rhesus apes died when they were deprived from their mother while they survived when a simple felt mat was put in the cage as surrogate of motherly tactile affection.

Prescott researched on the origins of violence. He did from the start not acknowledge the age-old pretension that man was per se a violent creature even though human history, or what historians saw of it, seemed to prove it.

Besides peace research, Campbell’s findings are important for research on perception and the human memory surface. Our brain adds new information on to already existing information, most of the time, instead of forming a new pattern in the memory surface. This is how the brain, and the process of thought, works, and how this system impacts upon perception by actually per se distorting perception.

Some neurologists, and Campbell is among them, gave comprehensive answers. He argues that our brain has developed this kind of faulty memory surface because it was enhancing human evolution as a matter of survival—while of course it has brought about millions of deficient thinkers! One of our major thinking trainers and international coaches, Edward de Bono, said the same from his own research on perception and his experience as a corporate trainer.

Main Publications

H.J. Campbell
The Pleasure Areas
London: Eyre Methuen Ltd., 1973

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