Dopamine 101: WHATEVER!

by Charlize Roselli on July 10, 2011

In a poll taken in 2009 the word, “Whatever” was voted the most irritating expression in the English language. The distaste for the colloquial response was shared by both sexes, all age groups, educational levels and incomes, and in all regions.

Despite the widespread disdain for “whatever,” it remains a wildly popular response, reaction, and “filler” word. In fact, you could argue that the behaviors of the two camps — the “whatever users” and the “whatever haters” — can both be linked to dopamine.

For the “whatever users,” the word promises a quick dopamine pick-me-up as a defense against threatening situations. It demonstrates a linguistic sense of apathetic superiority, guarding against situations that might compromise esteem or peer approval. Instead of a simple and honest admission of ignorance that creates a dopamine deprivation, a haughty, “Whatever!” can provide a quick fix by expressing just the right amount of scorn. By uttering a single word, clever dummies transform themselves into the arbitrators of what is and isn’t worth understanding or knowing. If they can feign apathy enough that they convince themselves that something is not worth their time and consideration, their carefully-guarded dopamine supply remains intact.

To the “whatever haters,” the word demonstrates an unflattering lack of compassion for the interests of others that can be interpreted as a personal insult. Without the “guard of feigned apathy” of the “whatever users,” the “whatever haters” find the word dopamine draining, and thus “irritating.”

If anyone thinks they have a better explanation of why “whatever!” remains so popular while being perceived as so annoying, all we can say is, “whatever!”

What about you?

Are you a “whatever user” or a “whatever hater”?

If you’re a “whatever user” are you aware of why you use it?

If you’re a “whatever hater” do you know why hearing the word annoys you?


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