Your Brain on Porn, Junk Food, and the Internet - Deepstash
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Supernormal Stimuli

Supernormal Stimuli

Some research suggests that certain things we enjoy today would be classified as supernormal stimuli , a term evolutionary biologists use to describe any stimulus that elicits a response stronger than the stimulus for which it evolved—even if it’s artificial.

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Nikolaas Tinbergen, a Nobel Prize Winning Ethologist, As Noted

Nikolaas Tinbergen, a Nobel Prize Winning Ethologist, As Noted

  • He constructed plaster eggs to see which a bird preferred to sit on, finding that they would select those that were larger, had more defined markings, or more saturated color—a dayglo-bright one with black polka dots would be selected over the bird’s own pale, dappled eggs.
  • He found that territorial male stickleback fish would attack a wooden fish model more vigorously than a real male if its underside was redder.
  • He constructed cardboard dummy butterflies with more defined markings that male butterflies would try to mate with in preference to real females.

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Humans And Animals

Humans And Animals

Dr. Barrett seems to think that the link is closer then we believe, arguing that supernormal stimulation govern the behavior of humans as powerfully as that of animals.

The hypothesis is that just like Tinbergen’s quick introductions of abnormal stimulation to animals, advancing technology may have created a similar situation for humans.

Here are common examples supernormal stimuli around us

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Junk food

Junk food

The highly addictive nature of junk food is one of our generation’s great concerns—food is being engineered specifically to be more appealing than its natural counterparts.

Some studies have suggested that foods like processed grain came about far too quickly and are doing quite a number on your mind and body.

The problem with junk food is due to the fact that it is a “super stimulating ” version of a natural reward we are supposed to pursue. Food addiction is the real deal , and a tough habit to break because the triggers are ever present.

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TV & video games

TV & video games

Research agrees that video games doesn't cause excessively violent behavior, but I do have to admit that it seems video games may be addictive for some people, and in particular, for certain personalities. Some studies have found symptoms of withdrawal in a very small subset of subjects; they became moody, agitated, and had physical symptoms of withdrawal.

Television addiction may cause some users to elicit the signs of a behavioral addictionusers often watch TV to change mood, but the relief that’s gotten is only temporary, and often brings them back for more.

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Pornography

Pornography

Probably the most controversial of all modern stimuli, pornography has been described as insidious in nature because it might skew the otherwise normal activity of sex. Porn has been linked to changing sexual tastes, and some argue that porn can become a “never-ending” supply of dopamine (though there are few conclusive studies done on porn and the mind).

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The Internet

The Internet

Unsurprisingly, psychologists are now giving serious consideration to the web, recognizing that it may be a very addictive outlet. It allows unfettered control to engage in nearly anything, and some countries like Japan and South Korea have had serious problems with reclusive, socially inept individuals who have a very unhealthy internet obsession—one story I read detailed a man who hadn’t left his apartment in 6 months. Social media has been shown to make some people depressed —they see the highlight reel of others, and may feel worse about their own life.

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What should you do?

What should you do?

This can seem like a lot to take in at once.

Before you panic, freak out, and throw away all of your Oreos + cancel your internet subscription, remember—everything in moderation.

Take the Internet:  there are signs that in some ways the Internet might become a distraction, but think about its contributions. The web is the best source in the world for information and knowledge, so how it affects you depends on how make use of it.

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Awareness

Awareness

In both cases, the main change is awareness . Awareness that the reason we are drawn to sickly desserts is because they are sweeter than any naturally-occurring fruit.

Awareness that watching television activates the primitive ‘orienting response’, keeping our eyes drawn to the moving pictures as if it were predator or prey. Awareness that liking ‘cute’ characters comes from a biological urge to protect and nurture our young.

The key is spotting the stimuli as they appear, and engaging the mind to regulate or override temptation. Sometimes it can feel more rewarding to say no to the supernormal.

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Deciding what’s normal

Deciding what’s normal

C.S. Lewis has some great thoughts on this: “Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of the wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives into temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.”

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Giving something up for just a small period of time can help you understand its place in your life, especially when it’s an optional activity. If you try to stay away from something for just a few days, and you find yourself becoming anxious and agitated, that could be your body telling you something important. If you can give it up “cold turkey” with no problem, that’s important information, too.

So no, don’t panic and freak out. Just recognize that it’s your job to make sure you are always in control; “those who do not move do not notice their chains.”

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CURATED BY

dwikiyulian_

Lifelong learner

CURATOR'S NOTE

Do you know what supernormal stimuli is? If not read this articles.

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