Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The powerful and mysterious brain circuitry that makes us love Google, Twitter, and texting. - By Emily Yoffe - Slate Magazine

The powerful and mysterious brain circuitry that makes us love Google, Twitter, and texting. - By Emily Yoffe - Slate Magazine:
"It is an emotional state Panksepp tried many names for: curiosity, interest, foraging, anticipation, craving, expectancy. He finally settled on seeking. Panksepp has spent decades mapping the emotional systems of the brain he believes are shared by all mammals, and he says, 'Seeking is the granddaddy of the systems.' It is the mammalian motivational engine that each day gets us out of the bed, or den, or hole to venture forth into the world. It's why, as animal scientist Temple Grandin writes in Animals Make Us Human, experiments show that animals in captivity would prefer to have to search for their food than to have it delivered to them.

For humans, this desire to search is not just about fulfilling our physical needs....we get thrilled about the world of ideas, about making intellectual connections, about divining meaning....

The juice that fuels the seeking system is the neurotransmitter dopamine. The dopamine circuits 'promote states of eagerness and directed purpose,' Panksepp writes. It's a state humans love to be in. So good does it feel that we seek out activities, or substances, that keep this system aroused—cocaine and amphetamines, drugs of stimulation, are particularly effective at stirring it."
Mmm, can you say Twitter? Or blogging?

This reminds me much of this article from several years ago (yeah I did notice the irony).

Behavioral finance implications? How about excessive trading? We keep searching for a stock or portfolio mix that rewards our cravings.

And much like passive indexing might be the "fix" for the "wanting a fix", there are ways to keep our minds on task. Unfortunately, as the The NY Times points out this methods are only marginally successful. The article discusses various software tools designed to prevent our minds from wandering (like a horse's blinders) but eventually concludes

"I wish I could say that using these digital nannies has revolutionized the way I work. They didn’t, really. Though blocking time-sucking Web sites did keep me from goofing off on my computer, I found that my brain quickly compensated by wasting time in other ways: As I’m writing this paragraph, for example, I’m also eating a peach. But not just eating it without thinking — I’ve been using a paring knife to try to cut perfectly cubical pieces to pop into my mouth."

No comments: