My Dopamine addiction

Phil: Last week I mentioned that I need a combination of Smarties and an iPod to kick-start my creativity. Despite having the second of these over the weekend, my progress towards hitting a couple of deadlines was laughable. I sat at the computer but seemed to be in full-on procrastination mode.

It seems that this isn’t entirely my fault. Biology is working against me.

Awaiting the arrival of a man to service my car yesterday, I was listening to something on Radio 4 and there was a man who had written a book about brain science talking about dopamine.

Now, perhaps sitting outside a shuttered garage in Leamington’s Car Quarter isn’t the best place to learn science, but my understanding of his theory is as follows:

Every time we find out something new, our brains get a little shot of dopamine. This is a pleasure chemical and makes us feel good.

The web is full of new things – e-mails, posts on Facebook, Tweets and pictures of cats. Each time we see a new one, the old dopamine shot kicks in.

Once we have a shot, we want more and the easiest way to get more is to spend time refreshing the e-mail, looking at Facebook and Twitter or digging out more pictures of cats. Doing proper work doesn’t give the same kick so even with serious self control, you find it hard not to do the things that provide the “high”.

The effects are reduced when the subject is in a stimulating environment.

All this explains why, when I’m really engaged in a project, I’ll work all hour on it. Give me some mundane stuff to do and I’ll hammer FaceTwitter every 10 minutes. It’s not my fault – evolution forced me to do it by rewarding learning.

Sadly, the garage opened up before I found out what I should do to solve this problem, so if anyone has any suggestions, I still have some deadlines looming…

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