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A Summary of

Dopamine Games

Mario Gabriele
The Generalist
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OCD and Dopamine

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder has a strange relationship with dopamine
    • Dopamine teaches us when we should expect rewards, and it therefore reinforces habits that produce pleasure
  • Its evolutionary purpose is to encourage necessary habits like eating, but other artificial mechanisms can trigger dopamine production
    • Following through with compulsions leads to a dopamine-driven satisfaction

Types of Games

  • Finite games have a discrete beginning and end, with defined winners and losers
    • For example, to attain the title of lawyer, someone must complete law school
  • Infinite games have no boundaries or rules; the goal is instead to keep playing
    • For example, love can be viewed as an infinite game, as there is no defined winner
  • Dopamine games are a seperate type or subcategory of game that controls our digital life
    • These games are finite, but they are engineered to go on as long as possible by taking advantage of our neurochemistry

Dopamine Games

  • The most common example of dopamine games are social media sites; however, these games appear across other industries online
    • For example, Tinder has gamified love, and Uber and Lyft use psychological tricks to keep their drivers working
  • Platforms are often optimized for metrics such as “time on site”, even if this is unrelated to the amount of time a user would need to achieve their goal
    • Facebook’s newsfeed was hated by users, but it ended up causing them to spend more time on the site anyways
  • All sites are pushed to exploit the human mind to improve their chances of success

The effect of dependency

  • Like other addictions, dopamine games start out as enjoyable, but over time they begin to take over your decision making
    • The dopamine overload from the internet is causing us to be constantly flooded with dopamine
  • This is having large impacts on mental health, especially on young people
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