Curbing Consumption: Dopamine & the Pleasure Principle

Curbing Consumption: Dopamine & the Pleasure Principle

Sarah Coffey
Aug 6, 2008

A few months ago, we wrote a post on How To Read Design Blogs and Resist the Urge to Buy. In the post, we mentioned that researching and writing about design gives us a buzz that cuts down on our need to actually consume, and fellow bloggers commented that they've had similar experiences. Turns out our blogging buzz might be due, in part, to a dopamine release in the brain...

posted originally from: AT:Chicago

While reading Rob Walker's Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are, we came across a chapter on consumer behavior patterns that discusses dopamine: a chemical in the brain that triggers sensations of pleasure when you buy something new. Emory professor Gregory Berns has argued that the potential of novelty is central to a dopamine release. When you actually buy something, that pleasure is modulated by "the pain of paying." (According to a Carnegie Mellon study, credit cards help to circumvent this, sustaining the dopamine rush by putting off the payment process.)

Although Walker doesn't mention blogging directly, we're speculating that the buzz we get from blogging new things might replicate the rush we'd get from consuming (minus the pain of paying). As commenters stated on our "How to Read Design Blogs" post, you don't have to actually blog to get that buzz. Other methods people mentioned include window shopping without buying, consuming trends through reading and surfing the net, and keeping clip files from magazines. One of the best tricks commenters suggested for avoiding consumption was, of course, focusing on the pain of how much you'd have to pay for your new purchase.

For more information on Rob Walker's book, Buying In, click here.

Photo: The Galleria in Houston, TX via Morguefile

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