Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dopamine RULES!

This is a great comment on the Failure as a Diagnostic Tool post, from Lisa, and it was so interesting, I thought it warranted its own post:

From Lisa:
You could relate this to the neurobiology underlying motivation. Reward feelings relate to pulses of dopamine in the brain. Anything can elicit a pulse- a success in sports, a positive social interaction, viewing art, etc. We then feel motivated to further pursue these sources of dopamine. There are two kickers though (aside from issues of addiction which I won't go into). The first is that, as Peter Sterling writes, "satisfaction cannot be stored". Dopamine pulses are transitory events. We need constant stimulation to stay satisfied. Not only that, but (and this is kicker #2) dopamine is secreted only when an experience slightly exceeds expectation. This is why our past accolades don't feel so rewarding anymore. This also explains the curse of the child with super acheiver parents or the has-been celebrity.
The good news is that we can pretty easily turn our "failures" into sources of satisfaction. As in "Wow, I don't really suck quite as much as I thought at this." dopamine pulse. or "Wow I am getting better." dopamine pulse again. Pretty much exactly as you describe learning to ski on ice.

This is how I learned statistics.

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