Wanting and Liking are different… much different

Wanting and Liking are different... much different

After the last article, I received the following note:

“This is really useful. Can you provide a bit more detail on the three components of your SEA score?

Specifically, how do you differentiate between enjoyment and attractiveness?”

That’s what I want to talk about today: the liking vs. wanting divide.

You see, behavioral neuroscientists have discovered something interesting over the last few decades… They’ve found that while liking and wanting generally go together, they’re actually neurologically distinct.

This becomes particularly obvious when looking at addictive behaviors. Smoking is a good example.

Talk to any long-time smoker and you’ll notice something quite striking: they no longer get the same euphoric rush from their drug of choice… yet they still smoke cigarette after cigarette each day.

While nicotine is initially quite enjoyable, the pleasure quickly diminishes. The craving, though? It remains.

The liking and the wanting are distinct. Unfortunately, most popular books in the behavioral sciences present the two as synonymous.

That’s why I decided to separate the two in my S.E.A. scoring rubric. There are plenty of behaviors that are attractive but not all that enjoyable, and there are plenty of behaviors that are enjoyable but not all that exciting/attractive.

It’s important to understand this if you’re going to pick the best behaviors possible for your behavior-change programs.

The best behaviors will be both exciting (attractive) AND enjoyable (rewarding).