A. Both make us feel alive, excited and inspired by activating the same natural neurochemical, dopamine.
Q. What makes them as different at day and night?
A. Nope, it’s not their choices of ties. Think again.
Someone, like Bill Nye, who brings followers new, mind-expanding information, treats his audiences to a healthy dose of dopamine. He stimulates intellectual curiosity, encourages participants to question ideas, expands their knowledge base, and inspires them to explore their minds, the planet, universe, and beyond.
Bombastic public figures, including Trump, hold attention by generating fear and antagonism, that instantaneously produce debilitating gushers of dopamine. Followers drowning in a sea of dopamine are rendered incapable of questioning whatever is pronounced as fact. They’re unable to analyze what’s said, or to participate in well-informed debate. In a dopamine-induced trance, their thinking and behavior are at the mercy of the “pusher/speaker’s” tirades. Nothing is too mean, inflammatory, irresponsible, or absurd.
Dopamine is neutral. It’s an equal opportunity neurochemical that can be activated by novelty and curiosity, or, by belligerence, threat and aggression. It’s this brain chemical’s biological mandate to get our attention and hold a memory of anything that has an effect on our survival.
In a purely biological context, that makes sense. The brain takes no chances. Anyone or anything that stirs up feelings of anxiety, anger and fear, instantaneously pump out floods of dopamine intended to keep nervous systems hyper-vigilant; ready to do battle.
Dopamine levels in the red-zone, whether they’re generated by politicians, pundits, or extreme religious leaders present highly problematic consequences because:
- dopamine in continuously hefty doses is seriously addictive and mimics similar addictive reactions of amphetamines and cocaine, in the same pleasure centers of the brain. And, as with street drugs, it also requires ever larger fixes of anxiety, anger and fear, just to maintain the pleasure.
- Dopamine drenched brains block communications to and from the highest human thought processing. Followers, sky-high on dopamine are unable to: analyze information, think in terms of a big picture, contemplate cause and effect, feel empathy, or manage emotions and behavior. No fact checking required or wanted.
Excited and hooked about science? That’s probably a good thing for all of us.
Addicted to anxious, angry, aggressive thinking and behavior? That can be nothing but trouble for everyone.
A great source of healthy dopamine: