Tag Archives: dopamine

Death to Success

I’m going to conduct an experiment.

You can participate as well. Or you can watch this spot for progress reports. Or both.

The hypothesis for this experiment is as follows:

The mind is plastic. Evidence of this is that the internet and specifically, social media (through PCs and smartphones) has, unbeknownst to us, rewired our brains and we are now victims of our own desires to engage the world through the dings and tweedles, red and orange notifications dots and numbers we yearn to see on our computing devices. Our brains have been remolded making us all social notification addicts.

It therefore follows that, so altered, the mind, my mind, can be altered back. Specifically, my fixation with death, and the nihilistic attitudes I’ve cultivated for the last few years, which, if the theory holds true, I’ve inadvertently wired my brain to gravitate towards, will be attempted to be transformed to — not thoughts of death and the end of the Universe — but to a simple idealistic desire for success.

Every time I think of death and any and all of the terms and constructs that surround it, I will intentionally divert my thinking to the word “success”. This word, I believe, can embody a diametrically opposed belief system opposite of Morte.

Along the way I’ll be attempting to also alter my use of the internet, trying to curb my insidious predilection toward the dopamine-drip fed feeling of social acknowledgment found in said software dings and dots.

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains — Nicholas Carr, a book recommended by Zarah Parker, has me convinced that this experiment can be attempted.

The null hypothesis would be that, in six months or so, I retain the tendency to dwell on my mortal demise (or I’ve shoved an ice pick into my ear) and will report such results (or not). To reject this null hypothesis, we’ll have to see where my head is right around the summer solstice.

It’s a fun and exiting experiment you can do at home, work, or traveling. So, come along and join the joy. Let’s all change our minds together.

[And now for a dram of Inception’esqueness: https://bmhonline.wordpress.com/2018/01/02/death-to-success/ Where Brian has eloquently, if anachronistically verbalized the above verbiage.]


Rewarding logic: Spock paradox

Why would Spock prefer a logical solution to an illogical one?

The human brain is fixated on self-reward. Our endocrine system, in concert with our cerebrum, serve to lead us in how we think and react to our world. The two systems work together to produce our behavior. There are dozens if not hundreds of hormones that serve to swill into our mind coating it and bathing it to produce drug like euphoria which, more often than not, reinforces our behavior to play-it-again-Sam.

This works for hormones like oxytocin, the more you bond with a loved one the more you want to bond; dopamine, the more you feed the reward hormone the more reward you crave; serotonin, the more content you are the more content you want to be. And there are others that behave this way. And some that go the opposite way. Ghrelin, for instance, is the hunger hormone and if you feed yourself (after being hungry), your stomach lining will stop producing it.

But what of pure thinking, logical problems? I propose that solving mental problems produces similar hormonal reward releases just as the other behaviors do. And, in fact, we know this is true; dopamine gets squirted into your system every time you see that orange dot on the wordpress bell (or fadebook or twitter or instagram, etc.). Positive feedback  during social interaction is an addictive behavior and dopamine is the culprit.

I write software. When I have a tough logical problem to crack, which I end up solving,¬† at that moment of realization of my breakthrough — I feel great! I just dialed up my dopamine drip. Solving logical puzzles is an addictive process. OK, maybe not addictive, but there is a reward provided by the brain when a solution is discovered.

Ah ha! moments are like a drug.

So here’s the paradox: why would Spock — as a Vulcan — prefer a logical solution if, as an emotionless being, no reward would be forthcoming for said selection?

Yes, Spock is 1/2 human, but as a Vulcan, there would be no hormonal release of a dopamine equivalent. So, why bother? If you don’t “get” anything out of choosing logic vs illogic, why be adamant about its selection? Humans, on the other hand, I believe, select a logical solution precisely because it feels good to do so. An illogical solution does not provide the reward.

Human brains and hormones work together to keep us selecting species benefiting choices. A well thought out logical solution is its own reward — because that reward feels good, it physically feels good. Spock? Vulcans? They would have no reason to pursue logic as they do.

A post of similar sentiment, that is, hormones and human response:
https://anonymole.wordpress.com/2016/10/29/your-brain-on-narrative/