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From Ancient Greek ἄλγος (álgos, pain) + ἡδονή (hēdonḗ) ‘pleasure’.


algedonics pl (plural only)

  1. The scientific study of pleasure and pain responses.
    • 1894, The Speaker - Volume 9, page 703:
      Interactions of mental states with one another, or changing relations of the organism and the environment, determine all sorts of changes in the quality of the mental states as regards pleasure and pain. To show how these changes come about is to obtain the laws of "algedonics."
    • 1908, Pennsylvania Medical Journal (1897-1923). - Volume 11, page 185:
      The conception of algedonics interests the physician, then, as far as it helps him to attempt to distinguish between a psychic or physical origin for the headache.
    • 1909, Henry Rutgers Marshall, Consciousness, page vii:
      In that work there was presented for examination a theory of Algedonics which seemed more adequate to account for our pleasure-pain experiences than any I had met with in the published works of other students of the subject, and which appeared to avoid the difficulties that had heretofore availed to discredit the hedonic theory of Aesthetics.
    • 2005, John R. Shook, Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers - Volume 1, →ISBN, page 1626:
      Marshall viewed aesthetics as a special branch of introspective psychology dealing with algedonics, the science of pleasure and pain.
  2. (management) The handling of critical events in ways that bypass the usual chain of reporting in order to respond more urgently.
    • 1994, Roger Harnden & ‎Allenna Leonard, How many grapes went into the wine: Stafford Beer on the art and science of holistic management, →ISBN, page 138:
      The plant is adaptive to environmental changes (we have discussed how this could be done through algedonics). But the built-in control systems keep going wrong.
    • 2011, Angela Espinosa & ‎Jon Walker, A Complexity Approach to Sustainability, →ISBN, page 64:
      The final point introduces the idea of 'algedonics' (from the Greek 'aldos', meaning pain, and 'hedos', or pleasure), a signal produced by a statistically recognised event, which is so important that it bypasses the usual channels and gets sent directly to S5.
    • 2012, Paolo Renna, Production and Manufacturing System Management, →ISBN, page 257:
      The information is transferred from S3 to S4, in the form of “algedonics” (dashed line between S3 and S4 in Figure 3).

Usage notesEdit

The use of this word for the study of pleasure and pain was originally coined by Henry Rutgers Marshall in the late 19th century. It has fallen into disuse in modern psychology and neurology, except when referring to the historic work of Marshall and his colleagues. However, modern research into the neurology of pleasure and pain has led to the use of the term in management theory.