Saturday, September 19, 2015

Dopamine Makes You Addicted To Seeking Information

Do you ever feel addicted to email or texting? Can you ignore your email if you see that there are messages in your inbox? Have you ever Googled something and 30 minutes later realize you've been browsing a long time, and now you are on a tangent? These are all examples of your dopamine system at work.

Dopamine is created the brain and is critical for thinking, moving, sleeping, mood, attention, motivation, seeking, and reward. You may have heard that dopamine controls the “pleasure” systems of the brain. The latest research shows that dopamine causes us to want, desire, seek out, and search. It increases our general level of arousal and our goal-directed behaviour. Dopamine makes us curious about ideas and fuels our searching for information. It is the opioid system that makes us feel pleasure.

The dopamine system propels us to action and the opioid system makes us feel satisfied and pauses our seeking. If our seeking isn't turned off at least for a little while, then we get into an endless loop.

The dopamine system is stronger than the opoid system. We seek more than we are satisfied. The internet, twitter, and texting gives us almost instant gratification of the desire to seek, which leads to a dopamine induced loop. We start seeking, 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 make matters worse, our brains show more stimulation and activity when we ANTICIPATE a reward than when we get one. The dopamine system can sometimes keep saying "more", seeking even when we have found the information. During a Google exploration we know that we have the answer to the question we originally asked, and yet we find ourselves looking for more information.

When something happens that is not exactly predictable, that stimulates the dopamine system. Think about these electronic gadgets and devices. We get emails, tweets, and texts, but we don’t know exactly when or whom they will be from. This is exactly what stimulates the dopamine system. It's the same system at work for gambling and slot machines.

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 or visual cue when a text message or email arrives, it enhances the addictive effect. The dopamine system is most stimulated when the information coming in is small. It doesn’t full satisfy. A short text or tweet sends our dopamine system raging.

This constant stimulation of the dopamine system can be exhausting.

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