I've just finished How Pleasure Works by Paul Bloom which I was both useful and every enjoyable.
The basic proposition is built on essentialism and the idea that what gives us pleasure is much what we know and feel about something as actual physical characteristics or traits.
Which makes a lot of sense and explains why people will pay thousand for a genuine dress worn by Marilyn Monroe, but not if it's been washed - it's the fact she's worn it and imbued it with essential Marilyn Monroeness that makes it special. Or why we'll choose to pay thousands for a mechanical watch imbued with story and heritage when in won't tell the time the time as well as a $25 dollar Casio.
It's what we believe about stuff that lends it value and pleasure as much as what it is, which explains why modern is an intellectual and elitist pursuit - you only get pleasure from a Damian Hirst if you understand the idea behind it, whereas the beauty of a Rembrant is universal, you can see the craft and talent in the execution (also explains why I love Dali, there's idea but you can see the sheer brilliance of the man's talent too).
Of course the link to imbuing a brand with story doesn't really need fleshing out any further does it? But nice to know the evidence sits in proper psychology.
On another note, there's a great analysis on safety and pain, and why people are driven to the extremes of horror movies, tragedies that make you cry or even sado masochism. One thing that struck me was the need to feel something in a world that's a little bit jaded. I really get this.
It's why Marcus' talk at Interesting North struck a chord amidst the (brilliant and entertaining) cleverness, it's why I swim until I feel faint and ride like I'm trying to escape the jaws of hell. In a world engorged with experience, complexity, irony and short cuts, no wonder we crave things that make us feel something.