Novelty & Cheap Dopamine — How Kindle is Destroying My Reading Life
Download sample. Purchase.
Return sample. Purchase.
Click. Click. Click. Click.
I’ll come across an interesting book, get excited, download it to my Kindle and start reading. Forget about the 2 other books I was so enthusiastic about last week.
About 30–35% into the book, I lose interest.
But not to worry!
I quickly get distracted by the promise of another book.
Like a spoiled kid on Christmas morning.
It bothers me. Why can’t I focus? Why don’t I finish anything? Is it me? Is it the books?
It turns out it has everything to do with:
- My brain’s obsession with novelty
- A neurotransmitter called dopamine
Novelty is the most powerful signal to determine what we pay attention to in the world.
That makes a lot of sense from an evolutionary standpoint:
- Learning: As prehistoric nomads, our scenery was constantly changing. By exploring the new and the unknown, we learned. The more we learned, the more our chances of handling different and more difficult tasks expanded, and our chances for survival increased.
- Survival: We had to be vigilant for whatever was new in our environment to quickly answer the most important questions: “Can I eat it? Can it eat me? If not, can I mate with it?”
- Efficiency: We’re efficiency machines. We don’t want to spend time and energy noticing the many things around us that don’t change from day to day. Only the new, shiny stuff matters.
Our brain is wired to ignore the old and focus on the new.
Now, neuroscientists have found that novelty causes several brain systems to become activated.
The main one?
The dopamine system — one of the most popular feel-good neurotransmitters.