Dopamine Games: What Problems? What Disease? What Pandemic?

by Charles Lyell on April 10, 2012

“My dear Kepler, I wish that we might laugh at the remarkable stupidity of the common herd. What do you have to say about the principal philosophers of this academy who are filled with the stubbornness of an asp and do not want to look at either the planets, the moon or the telescope, even though I have freely and deliberately offered them the opportunity a thousand times? Truly, just as the asp stops its ears, so do these philosophers shut their eyes to the light of truth.”          – Galileo Galilei to astronomer Johannes Kepler.

How did so many of Galileo’s peers manage to deny the undeniable for so long? By playing the same dopamine games that help today’s intellectuals (and dummies) deny that our species is flirting with self-annihilation.

Ignorance might not be bliss, but self-deceptions and denial do help provide the only payoff that people are interested in — dopamine.

  • Self-deceptions protect people from what they dread most — the dopamine deprivation associated with facts that increase fears, reduce peer approval, or threaten esteem.
  • Denying the countless, growing, and possibly insurmountable problems facing humankind makes it possible to ignore the existence of a widespread brain disease responsible for all the problems.

What Galileo didn’t and couldn’t know was that, by refusing to look through his telescope, the philosophers he reproved were doing what people do all the time, i.e. protecting their dopamine flow by playing popular dopamine games.

Dopamine games seem illogical, irrational, and/or foolish because dopamine games are never about logic, reason, information, or facts, and always about triggering dopamine and/or protecting dopamine flow against the threats posed by logic, reason, information, or facts.


The trick to playing I Don’t Believe What You’re Saying Because I Don’t Want To Know is to substitute any flimsy deception for the words “I don’t want to know.” In the 17th century, Galileo’s haughty detractors refused to peer through his telescope because they convinced one another that Galileo was somehow using his suspicious contraption to fool fools.

For centuries, people have easily dismissed irrefutable information with equally dubious deceptions that include, “Because what you’re saying is too depressing,” “Because I don’t like the way you said what you said,” “Because I don’t like you,” and unconsciously, “Because I can’t admit how threatened I am by what you’re saying.”

Only dimwits would ignore a man shouting, “Fire!” because they found the information too depressing, they disliked the man, they couldn’t admit they were afraid of fires, and/or they were annoyed by the way the guy yelled, “Fire!”. Yet, when it comes to learning about dopamine, even dopamine experts play IDBWYSBIDWTK.

Why? Because IDBWYSBIDWTK offers a proven strategy that effectively protects dopamine flow. And the only requirement is the ability to hide behind the flimsiest of excuses to rationalize a commitment to ignorance. Additionally, accomplished players score a quick dopamine boost by deluding themselves into believing that they are somehow too smart to be fooled, as opposed to realizing that, once again, they’re actually fooling themselves.

I’m an Optimist!

I’m an Optimist!, a clever variation of One-upmanship, is a game based on a number of convenient self-deceptions. The first deception falsely equates the ability to deny unpleasant information with optimism. The second deception is the unspoken and misleading implication that anyone suggesting unpleasant information is a fear-monger / alarmist / defeatist / pessimist. The third deception is that optimists are inherently smarter, nicer, and/or superior to pessimists.

Without having to waste any time addressing information that threatens their dopamine flow, I’m an Optimist! players get to skip right to the dopamine hits triggered by building up their esteem by putting down the bearers of unpleasant / dopamine depleting information.

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One Response to “Dopamine Games: What Problems? What Disease? What Pandemic?”

  1. (Bad english!)

    It explain all the thing i want understand since i was a teenager.
    But now we know all thing/thought bring us dopamine and it s our motor of life what live to live?when we know this we begin to be aware that there no right way and finaly no choice!
    I don t choose to be aware of what you ve discover,i will certainly don t choose what i ll do with this new knowledge ; )

    The great question:
    What s natural and healthy life for an human,what s human life if it exist!

    When i understand your text for me i think it s impossible to escape the dopamine rules.

    In the same way you can say you search to be aware about dopamine addiction to trigger dopamine flow to yourself ; )
    You find great new way to think the world,( esteem),you want more people be aware of dopamine (acceptance)
    Maybe some people will want you teach what you know , you ll writte some succeffull book and many people will follow you(power),maybe your website will become full of visitor and you ll add some pub(money)

    Posted by louis | November 12, 2013, 8:03 pm

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