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(Not So Great) Expectations | Psychology Today

(Not So Great) Expectations | Psychology Today

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/your-brain-work/200911/not-so-great-expectations?collection=60192

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Dopamine and expectations

Dopamine and expectations

Unmet expectations, no matter how small or unimportant, are enough to put us off. Brain research on expectations shows that dopamine cells in the brain fire off in anticipation of primary rewards. When a cue from the environment indicates that you will get a reward, dopamine releases in response.

But if you're expecting a reward and you don't get it, dopamine levels fall drastically. This feeling is akin to pain. Expecting a pay rise and not getting one can create a funk that lasts for days.

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Positive expectations

Good levels of dopamine in your prefrontal cortex are critical for focusing.

Positive expectations increase dopamine levels in the brain, and these increased levels make you more able to focus. Teachers know that children learn best when they are interested in a subject. That interest, desire, and positive expectations are variations of the increased level of dopamine in the brain.

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Creating the right expectations

Whether you want to be happy or improve your performance at work, it would be useful to improve how you manage expectations to create the right dopamine levels.

  • The best way to manage your expectations is to start to pay attention to them and be proactive in regulating your emotions.
  • Set the scene for good performance rather than fixing problems when they go wrong.
  • Keep your expectations low but also pay attention to positive expectations you know will be met.

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The link between expectations, dopamine and perception

Research shows that happy people solve more problems and come up with more ideas. The search for happiness is perhaps really a search for the right levels of dopamine.

To create a 'happy' life, perhaps we should live a life with a good amount of novelty, create opportunities for unexpected rewards, and have a positive outlook.

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Attraction Towards Stuff

Attraction Towards Stuff

Right from childhood, we are attracted to things that we can call our own, stuff like clothes, toys, bags, and books, later morphing into adult toys like cars, jewellery, furniture, Playstations an...

Kids And Possessions

  • In children, attachment to certain objects like a favourite toy or blanket is common.
  • They can rebel or move to tears when made to part with the object they are attached to, as a deep bond is formed.
  • The object aids the kid’s transition to adulthood and is more common when they are not attached to their parents.

Attachment To Objects: Mid Adolescence

Being happy with material goods peaks during the formative years, when new experiences make the teenager’s already fragile self-esteem fluctuate. A sense of self-worth and respect makes them less prone to attachment towards materialist objects.

Pre-teen girls identify so much with material objects like clothes, that if they exchange it with each other, it feels that they have shared their identity.

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Different types of "shopaholics"

  • Compulsive shoppers: Buying when they are feeling emotional distress.
  • Trophy shoppers: They are always looking for the next great item.
  • ...

Socially acceptable

Shopping can be socially acceptable because consumerism is continually pushed on us in the forms of posters, adverts, and signs.

Shopping is also a way of life: You need food and clothing from stores. Even if you try to stop compulsive buying by avoiding the stores in person, there is still a world of online shopping.

Addiction vs compulsion

Addiction describes trying something, becoming emotionally and physically dependent on it, and then becoming psychologically and physically addicted to it. People who struggle with addiction have explained feeling euphoric, elevated, happy, complete, and whole when they partake in their addiction. Compulsion refers to a specific, intense urge to do something. People who struggle with a compulsion explain feeling immense relief and relaxation from completing behaviors that they feel compelled to do.

Eating Distract from Emotions

We often associate eating with relief or even excitement, and it’s only natural that we’d reach for those same feelings when we’re worried or sad.

Why we choose comfort food

Comfort foods don’t tend to be healthy. We want cake or pasta or chips when we’re emotionally eating. We have emotional memories around certain foods, which are more likely to involve your grandma’s lasagna than a salad. 

But after we eat for emotional reasons, we’re replacing our original feelings with the emotions that arise out of eating.

Comfort food

We associate comfort food with positive memories.

Think about all the happy and comforting memories you have involving food. Maybe your family used to celebrate occasions with a trip to the ice cream shop, or maybe your mom or dad used to soften the blow of a bad day with macaroni and cheese. When you’re feeling rejected or anxious today, eating one of those foods is an instant connection to that soothing time.