#8 — Dopamine Makes You Addicted To Seeking Information

Dopamine Makes You Addicted To Seeking Information

Do you ever feel like you are addicted to email or twitter or texting? Do you
find it impossible to ignore your email if you see that there are messages in
your inbox? Have you ever gone to Google to look up some information and 30
minutes later you realize that you’ve been reading and linking, and searching
around for a long time, and you are now searching for something totally
different than before? These are all examples of your dopamine system at work.

Enter dopamine – Neuro scientists have been studying
what they call the dopamine system for a while. Dopamine was “discovered” in
1958 by Arvid Carlsson and Nils-Ake Hillarp at the National Heart Institute of
Sweden. Dopamine is created in various parts of the brain and is critical in all
sorts of brain functions, including thinking, moving, sleeping, mood, attention,
and motivation, seeking and reward.

The myth — You may have heard that dopamine controls
the “pleasure” systems of the brain: that dopamine makes you feel enjoyment,
pleasure, and therefore motivates you to seek out certain behaviors, such as
food, sex, and drugs.

It’s all about seeking — The latest research, though
is changing this view. Instead of dopamine causing us to experience pleasure,
the latest research shows that dopamine causes seeking behavior. Dopamine causes
us to want, desire, seek out, and search. It increases our general level of
arousal and our goal-directed behavior. (From an evolutionary stand-point this
is critical. The dopamine seeking system keeps us motivated to move through our
world, learn, and survive). It’s not just about physical needs such as food, or
sex, but also about abstract concepts. Dopamine makes us curious about ideas and
fuels our searching for information. The latest research shows that it is the
opoid system (separate from dopamine) that makes us feel pleasure.

Wanting vs. liking – According to Kent Berridge,
these two systems, the “wanting” (dopamine) and the “liking” (opoid) are
complementary. The wanting system propels us to action and the liking system
makes us feel satisfied and therefore pause our seeking. If our seeking isn’t
turned off at least for a little while, then we start to run in an endless loop.
The latest research shows that the dopamine system is stronger than the opoid
system. We seek more than we are satisfied (back to evolution… seeking is more
likely to keep us alive than sitting around in a satisfied stupor).

A dopamine induced loop – With the internet, twitter,
and texting we now have almost instant gratification of our desire to seek. Want
to talk to someone right away? Send a text and they respond in a few seconds.
Want to look up some information? Just type it into google. What to see what
your friends are up to? Go to twitter or facebook. We get into a dopamine
induced loop… dopamine starts us seeking, then we get rewarded for the seeking
which makes us seek more. It becomes harder and harder to stop looking at email,
stop texting, stop checking our cell phones to see if we have a message or a new
text.

Anticipation is better than getting — Brain scan
research shows that our brains show more stimulation and activity when we
ANTICIPATE a reward than when we get one. Research on rats shows that if you
destroy dopamine neurons, rats can walk, chew, and swallow, but will starve to
death even when food is right next to them. They have lost the desire to go get
the food.

More, more, more – Although wanting and liking are
related, research also shows that the dopamine system doesn’t have satiety built
in. It is possible for the dopamine system to keep saying “more more more”,
seeking even when we have found the information. During that google exploration
we know that we have the answer to the question we originally asked, and yet we
find ourselves looking for more information and more and more.

Unpredictable is the key — Dopamine is also
stimulated by unpredictability. When something happens that is not exactly
predictable, that stimulates the dopamine system. Think about these electronic
gadgets and devices. Our emails and twitters and texts show up, but we don’t
know exactly when they will or who they will be from. It’s unpredictable. This
is exactly what stimulates the dopamine system. It’s the same system at work for
gambling and slot machines. (For those of you reading this who are “old school”
psychologists, you may remember “variable reinforcement schedules”. Dopamine is
involved in variable reinforcement schedules. This is why these are so
powerful).

When you hear the “ding” that you have a text – The
dopamine system is especially sensitive to “cues” that a reward is coming. If
there is a small, specific cue that signifies that something is going to happen,
that sets off our dopamine system. So when there is a sound when a text message
or email arrives, or a visual cue, that enhances the addictive effect (for the
psychologists out there: remember Pavlov).

140 characters is even more addictive – And the
dopamine system is most powerfully stimulated when the information coming in is
small so that it doesn’t full satisfy. A short text or twitter (can only be 140
characters!) is ideally suited to send our dopamine system raging.

Not without costs — This constant stimulation of the
dopamine system can be exhausting. We are getting caught in an endless dopamine
loop.

Write a comment and share whether you get caught in
these dopamine loops and whether you think we should use what we know about
these systems to create devices and websites that stimulate them.

And for those of you who like
research:

Kent C. Berridge and Terry E. Robinson,
What is the role of dopamine in reward: hedonic impact, reward
learning, or
incentive salience?: Brain Research Reviews 28 1998. 309–369.

Originally published on WhatMakesThemClick.net.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/100-things-you-should-know-about-people-2010-11?op=1#ixzz1OAl4E1fl

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