No 2297 Posted by fw, June 12, 2018
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“The wanting of something is way more powerful than the having of something. … Once we have the thing, that was the peak of our dopamine, the peak of our neurotransmitter experience, which declines. And then you have to buy something new to get the same reaction. … And this [photo] is my storage shed which is the ghost of dopamine past. … That is again a microcosm of our culture.” —Nate Hagens
In today’s post, Pt 14, continuum 13, Dr. Hagens offers a brief explanation of how dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter in our brain. Filling in a few of the details, dopamine is released by brain nerve cells (neurons) to send signals to other nerve cells. The brain has several dopamine pathways, one of which plays a role in the motivational component of reward-motivated behavior. The anticipation of reward increases the brain’s dopamine level. Dopamine signals the value of a given reward, motivating the action required to get the reward. Once the reward is obtained, the dopamine level falls, waiting for the next jolt of never-ending “wanting” behavior. We’re addicted to novelty.
Below is the embedded video of Hagens’ 60-minute address, followed by an 18-minute Q&A session. My transcript of Pt. 14, continuum 13, runs from 22:41 to 24:09.
Alternatively, a video of Hagens’ talk, along with a “loosely related” essay on the talk, are available by clicking on the following linked title. This version, published by Resilience.org, also includes excellent readers’ comments, including responses by Hagens.
TRANSCRIPT (from 22:41 to 24:09)
22:41 – [Continuum 13: Wants vs Haves] – Wants versus Haves. Another one of our evolutionary kind of monkey traps. The wanting of something is way more powerful than the having of something. As one example, I like to look for agates and fossils. I live by the Mississippi rivers and I look in the quarries for these agates, billion-year-old rocks, which are beautiful. And I love doing it because it’s like – dumb rock, dumb rock, dumb rock – AGATE! — Yeah, and I get all excited.
23:20 – I have buckets of agates that I’ve never looked at after I’ve picked them. It’s the picking of them that I enjoy, not the having of them. But the same thing can be expanded towards shoes, or shopping centers, or houses. Once we have the thing, that was the peak of our dopamine*, the peak of our neurotransmitter experience, which declines. And then you have to buy something new to get the same reaction. [*dopamine – a brain chemical that signals reward value of object, the higher the reward value the higher the desire and motivation to possess the object].
23:49 — And this [photo] is my storage shed which is the ghost of dopamine past. I have not been in there in 4 years. So all the things that I’ve bought in the past, which still have economic value, I’ve never even been in – I can’t even walk in there.
24:05 – That is, again, a microcosm of our culture.
[Resilience.org Supplement] — Wants vs Haves – Our impulses to want something – a pair of shoes, a new car, a toy – feel more intense to us than the satisfaction we get from the possessing of that thing on an ongoing basis. Which is why our basements and storage units are full of the ghosts of dopamine past. While our physical world is based on stocks, our brain and behavior is based on flows, which need to be continually experienced each and every day.
About Dr. Nathan John Hagens – Hagens, 51, worked on Wall Street at Lehman Brothers and Salomon Brothers for 10 years before closing his own hedge fund in 2003 to develop a systems synthesis approach to the human predicament. At present, Dr. Hagens is a professor at the University of Minnesota where he teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar called Reality 101, A Survey of Human Predicament. The readings and lectures cover literature in systems ecology, energy and natural resources, thermodynamics, history, anthropology, human behavior, neuroscience, environmental science, sociology, economics, globalization/trade, and finance/debt with an overarching goal to give students a general understanding of how our human ecosystem functions as a whole.
Visit Nate Hagens’ personal website at The Monkey Trap.
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