Behave: The Biology of Humans at our Best and Worst Books

Chapter 2: One Second Before


  • The more reward anticipated – the more dopamine released in the brain
  • Nothing is ever good as the first time. There’s a decline in the dopamine levels over time, as things are not as exciting as they once were when we were first introduced to them
  • As it pertains to envy: In one neuroimaging study subjects read about a hypothetical person’s academic record, popularity, attractiveness and wealth. Descriptions that evoked self-reported envy activated cortical regions involved in pain perception. Then the hypothetical individual was described as experiencing a misfortune. More activation of pain pathways at the news of the person’s good fortune predicted more dopaminergic activation during schadenfreude-gloating over an envied person’s fall from grace
  • Dopaminergic responses to reward, rather than being absolute, are relative to the reward value of alternative outcomes. In order to accommodate the pleasures of both mathematics and orgasms, the system must constantly rescale to accommodate the range of intensity offered by particular stimuli. The response to any reward must habituate with repetition, so that the system can respond over its full range to the next new thing

The Anticipation of Reward

  • The pleasure is in the anticipation of reward, and the reward itself is nearly an afterthought (unless, of course, the reward fails to arrive, in which case i’s the most important thing in the world). If you know your appetite will be sated, pleasure is more about the appetite than about the sating. This is hugely important

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