James Marcroft (@jamesmarcroft) started discussion #531
Rabid consumption, positional or otherwise, is especially odd because we know that it doesn't actually do much for us as individuals. Many studies show that people vastly overestimate the happiness they will experience when they own that new car. When you desire something like a new car, your brain gets a hit of dopamine based on your anticipated happiness from having it, making you feel good. Yet once you actually get the car, you compare this to to your prior expectations. If the reward from having the car turns out to be less than what you expected, your dopamine levels will decrease and this can cause extreme disappointment. If your expectations are met, dopamine levels will stay basically constant. But only if your expectations are greatly exceeded will you get another big hit of dopamine. The unfortunate result of this is known as the “hedonic treadmill.” That is, when your brain gets accustomed to certain levels of dopamine (having a new car), you inadvertently boost the levels of dopamine required in the future to produce the same feeling of happiness. You'll have to raise your expectations for an even more expensive or faster car to get that initial kick of dopamine again, as repeated experiences just won't cut it .