Every time your brain tells you to seek out your favorite meal or look for that one perfume scent that reminds you of a friend, it’s because your brain is remembering a dopamine surge it experienced and wants it again. Older research indicated that dopamine was the neurotransmitter that allowed you to experience pleasure, but newer science is showing that dopamine is actually in charge of the seeking behavior itself and that opioids are what reward us with pleasure.
So why does it matter that dopamine is increasing your general level of arousal and goal-directed behavior? Because dopamine helps you stay focused and motivated to seek out new ideas. In terms of technology, once you start seeking -- especially if you’re getting instant results – it becomes harder to stop.
It’s what keeps you searching for something on the Internet even after you found the answer you were searching for. Your dopamine system says it wants more. The brain’s inability to anticipate the next interaction is key to dopamine’s effects, the Internet is the perfect reward system; you never know when or where the next reward will come. The amount and quality of the information is important in stimulating the dopamine system. Smaller bits of information leave you wanting more, which increases your anticipation. Text messages and other instant messages set you up to want to continue the process over and over as your dopaminergic process fuels the brain.
Excerpted from the iBook Unplug: Raising Kids In a Technology Addicted World by Lisa K. Strohman, J.D., Ph.D. Copyright © 2015 Lisa Strohman, J.D., Ph.D., Melissa Westendorf, J.D., Ph.D. Reprinted by permission of the author.