YANSS Podcast 035 – Sunk Costs and the Pain of Vain

The Topic: The Sunk Cost Fallacy

The Episode: DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

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Every once in a while you will ask yourself, “I wonder if I should quit?”

Should you quit your job? Should you end your relationship? Should you abandon your degree? Should you shut down this project?

These are difficult questions to answer. If you are like me, every time you’ve heard one of those questions emerge in your mind, it lingered. It began to echo right as you woke up and just as pulled the covers over your shoulders. In the shower, waiting in line, in all your quiet moments – a question like that will appear behind your eyes, pulsating like a giant neon billboard until you can work out your decision.

Oddly enough, as a human being, that decision is often not made any easier when quitting is the most logical course of action. Even if it is obvious that it is no longer worth your time to keep going, your desire to plod on and your reluctance to quit are both muddled by an argumentative loop inside which you and many others easily get stuck.

The same psychological hooks that cost companies millions of dollars to produce products obviously destined to fail can also keep troops in harm’s way long past the point when the whole war effort should be brought to an end. It’s a universal human tendency, the same one that influences you to keep watching a bad movie instead of walking out of the theater in time to catch another or that keeps you planted in your seat at a restaurant after you’ve been waiting thirty minutes for your drinks. If you reach the end of the quest, you think, then you haven’t truly lost anything, and that is sometimes a motivation so strong it prolongs horrific, bloody wars and enormously expensive projects well past the point when most people involved in efforts like those have felt a strong intuition that no matter the outcome, at this point, total losses will exceed any potential gains.

In this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast, we explore the sunk cost fallacy, a strangely twisted bit of logic that seems to pop into the human mind once a person has experienced the pain of loss or the ickiness of waste on his or her way toward a concrete goal. It’s illogical, irrational, unreasonable – and as a perfectly normal human being, you act under its influence all the time.

LINKS

DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

Previous Episodes

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

Liberal or conservative? Brain responses to disgusting images help reveal political leanings

The Genetic Fallacy

More on The Genetic Fallacy

SOURCES

  • Ariely, D. (2009). Predictably irrational, revised and expanded edition: The hidden forces that shape our decisions. Harper. (Amazon link)
  • Arkes, Hal R., and Peter Ayton. “The Sunk Cost and Concorde Effects: Are Humans Less Rational than Lower Animals?” Psychological Bulletin 125.5 (1999): 591-600. Print. (pdf)
  • Burthold, G. R. (2008). Psychology of decision making in legal, health care and science settings. Gardners Books. (Google Books link)
  • Busch, Jack. “Travel Zen: How to Avoid Making Your Vacation Seem Like Work.” Primer Magazine. Primer Magazine, Jan. 2009. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Gaming Can Make a Better World. By Jane McGonigal. TED Talks. TED Conferences, LLC, Feb. 2010. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Godin, Seth. “Ignore Sunk Costs.” Seth’s Blog. Typepad, Inc., 12 May 2009. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Höffler, Felix. “Why Humans Care About Sunk Costs While (Lower) Animals Don’t.” The Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, 31 Mar. 2008. Web. Mar. 2011. (pdf)
  • Indvik, Lauren. “FarmVille” Interruption Cited in Baby’s Murder.” Mashable. Mashable Inc., 28 Oct. 2010. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. (Amazon link)
  • Kushner, David. “Games: Why Zynga’s Success Makes Game Designers Gloomy.” Wired. Conde Nast Digital, 27 Sept. 2010. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Lehrer, Jonah. “Loss Aversion.” ScienceBlogs. ScienceBlogs LLC, 10 Feb. 2010. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Schwartz, Barry. “The Sunk-Cost Fallacy Bush Falls Victim to a Bad New Argument for the Iraq War.” Slate. The Slate Group, 09 Sept. 2005. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Shambora, Jessica. “‘FarmVille’ Gamemaker Zynga Sees Dollar Signs.” CNN Money. Cable News Network, 26 Oct. 2009. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Vidyarthi, Neil. “City Council Member Booted For Playing Farmville.” SocialTimes. Web Media Brands Inc., 30 Mar. 2010. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Walker, Tim. “Welcome to FarmVille: Population 80 Million.” Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 22 Feb. 2010. Web. Mar. 2011.
  • “Why Zynga’s Success Makes Game Designers Gloomy | Discussion at Hacker News.” Hacker News. Y Combinator, 7 Oct. 2010. Web. Mar. 2011 (link)
  • Wittmershaus, Eric. “Facebook Game’s Cautionary Tale.” GameWit. Press Democrat Media Co., 04 Aug. 2010. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Yang, Sizhao Zao. “How Did FarmVille Take over FarmTown, When It Was Just a Exact Duplicate of FarmTown and FarmTown Was Released Much Earlier?” Quora. Quora, Inc., 01 Jan. 2011. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
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YANSS Podcast – Episode Eight – The Psychology of Video Games

The Topic: Video Games

The Guest: Jamie Madigan

The Episode: Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Last of Us Friend or Foe

A scene from “The Last of Us”

“The Last of Us” is a video game, a work of interactive art, and a question will arise in the back of your mind while playing, “What would I do in this situation?” and the answer will make you feel emotions no other art form can elicit.

The game is set in a post-apocalyptic United States, 20 years after the fall of mankind, in a world nature has mostly reclaimed, where resources are few and trust is scarce. Hope is the commodity in shortest supply. Most everyone has given up on rebuilding the old world. This is just how it is now. Every encounter with strangers pings that most primal of judgments under uncertainty: “Is this a potential friend or foe?”

Familiar? Sure, it’s a theme being explored all over in fiction. Something in the zeitgeist has us fretting over these things again, but in a game you have the opportunity to actually test yourself in a virtual reality, to see what you would do when the stakes are as high as possible. Would you trust others? Would you help strangers? Would you kill to survive?

In addition, “The Last of Us” explores something the gaming world calls ludonarrative dissonance. Many modern games have detailed stories with great writing and well-acted scenes interspersed between what amounts to bursts of mass murder. It can make a player feel like his or her agency in the world has been stolen by the storyteller, that the characters you are asked to portray live in two realities, one you control and one you do not. This can feel really off-putting when the characters are jaunty, smarmy, and noble in the cutscenes, but then you are asked to use those people to do terrible things. In an effort to solve this problem, Naughty Dog, the developers of “The Last of Us”, crafted an experience where you and the character feel justified when pushed to do harm, but afterward you, the gamer, feel disgusted with yourself and horrified by the power of the situation to change your behavior and shift your moral center. You find yourself quickly learning to avoid violence – a behavior I was astonished to see evoked in myself inside a game world, and was thrilled to experience. That’s something you won’t get watching “Breaking Bad.”

Watch a teaser trailer showing a friend-or-foe scenario here: Link

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In this episode of the YANSS podcast, we explore games and their potential to reveal our self delusions. I interview Jamie Madigan, the curator of psychologyofgames.com, who writes about the behaviors and cognitions that games both exploit and uncover. It’s a great interview. We discuss everything from the motivational nudging in “Candy Crush Saga” to the power of endowed progress when endorsing people on LinkedIn. Please forgive us for geeking out so hard during it. I promise, non-gamers will learn plenty in this episode. Links to the things mentioned in the episode are at the bottom of this post.

After the interview, as in every episode, I read a bit of self delusion news and taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. That listener/reader wins a signed copy of the new book, You Are Now Less Dumb, and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode’s winner is Violet Sinnarkar who submitted a recipe for white chocolate oatmeal cookies. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 12.51.51 PM

White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Links:

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Boing Boing Podcasts

Psychology of Games

Papers, Please

Spent

Newsgaming

Underground Railroad Game

The Walking Dead 

Narco Guerilla 

The Last of Us

Candy Crush Youtube Video 1

Candy Crush Youtube Video 2

Candy Crush Youtube Video 3

Candy Crush Youtube Video 4

The study concerning the cognitive load of poverty

The Sunk Cost Fallacy

The Misconception: You make rational decisions based on the future value of objects, investments and experiences.

The Truth: Your decisions are tainted by the emotional investments you accumulate, and the more you invest in something the harder it becomes to abandon it.

You can learn a lot about dealing with loss from a video game called Farmville.

You have probably heard of this game. In 2010, one in five Facebook users had a Farmville account. The barrage of updates generated by the game annoyed other users so much it forced the social network to change how users sent messages. At its peak, 84 million people played it, a number greater than the population of Italy.

Farmville has shrunk since then. About 50 million people were still playing in early 2011 – still impressive considering the fantasy megagame World of Warcraft boasts about a quarter as many players.

So, it must be really, really fun. A game with this many players must promise potent, unadulterated joy, right? Actually, the lasting appeal of Farmville has little to do with fun. To understand why people commit to this game and what it can teach you about the addictive nature of investment, you must first understand how your fear of loss leads to the sunk cost fallacy.

Continue reading

Extinction Burst

The Misconception: If you stop engaging in a bad habit, the habit will gradually diminish until it disappears from your life.

The Truth: Any time you quit something cold turkey, your brain will make a last-ditch effort to return you to your old ways.

Source: Corie Howell

You’ve been there.

You get serious about losing weight and start to mind every calorie. You read labels work out the math for a serving size. You stock up on fruit and vegetables and look up how to properly cut onions and bell peppers. You hit the gym and get an app to track your progress.

Everything is going fine. You feel great. You feel like a champion. You think, “This is easy.”

Then one day you give in to temptation and eat a piece of chocolate, or a cake doughnut, or bag of chips. Maybe you go a bit further and grab a beer or maybe a cheeseburger. Perhaps you are out to lunch, and say, “What the hell,” and order the fettuccine alfredo. It seems like you can handle one transgression, but that afternoon, since you’ve already cheated a little, you think maybe tonight you can you eat whatever you want. To celebrate the occasion you eat a pint of ice cream or a whole pizza. The diet ends in a catastrophic binge, and among the ruins you look at the empty containers knowing that what was once in them is now in you and you you ask, “what the hell?” How did my smooth transition from comfort food to human Dumpster happen?

You just experienced an extinction burst – a predictable and common blast of defiance from the recesses of a brain denied familiar rewards.

Food, of course, is one of the most powerful rewards. It keeps you alive. Your brain didn’t evolve in an environment where there was an abundance of food, so whenever you find a high-calorie, high fat, high sodium source, your natural inclination is to eat a lot of it and then go back to it over and over again. If you take away a reward like that, especially if you’ve become accustomed to indulging, especially if you abruptly turn off the flow of pleasure, you can expect to eventually throw an internal tantrum.

Much of your behavior is the result of conditioning. It is among the most basic factors shaping the way any organism reacts to the world. If your actions lead to positive outcomes, you are more likely to continue them. Your brain doles out pleasant emotions through chemical gifts whenever you do something that benefits the organism it pilots. If your actions lead to a negative outcome, you are more likely to avoid that behavior in the future. Over time, you begin to predict reward and punishment by linking longer and longer series of events to their eventual outcomes.

Say you want some chicken nuggets. You know you can’t just snap your fingers and wait for them to appear. You must engage in a long sequence of actions – walk to closet, put on shirt, find shoes, apply to feet, find keys, find car, drive to nuggets, use language, exchange money, etc… This string of behaviors could be sliced up into smaller and smaller components if we wanted to really dig down into the conditioning you have endured in order to be able to get nuggets in your mouth. Just driving the car from point A to point B is a complex performance with thousands of steps, all of which become automatic after hundreds of hours of practice.

Millions of tiny behaviors, each one a single step in a process, all add up to a single operation you have learned will payoff in reward. Think of rats in a maze, learning a complicated series of steps – turn left two times, turn right once, turn left, right, left, get cheese. Even microorganisms can be conditioned to react to stimuli and predict outcomes.

This concept, conditioning, for a good long while was the cat’s pajamas in psychology. In the 1960s and ’70s, Burrhus Frederic Skinner became a scientist celebrity by scaring the shit out of America with an invention called the operant conditioning chamber – the Skinner Box. The box is an enclosure which can have any combination of levers, food dispensers, an electric floor, lights and loudspeakers. Scientists place animals in the box and either reward them or punish them to either encourage or discourage their behaviors. Rats, for example, can be taught to push a lever when a green light appears to get a food pellet.

Skinner once demonstrated how he could teach a pigeon to spin in circles at his command by offering food only when it turned in one direction. Gradually, he withheld the food until the pigeon had turned a little farther and farther until he had it going round and round. He could even get the pigeon to distinguish between the word “peck” and “turn” and get them to perform the corresponding behavior just by showing them a sign. Yes, in a sense, he taught a bird to read.

Skinner discovered you could get pigeons and rats to do complicated tasks by slowly building up chains of behaviors through handing out pellets of food. For example, if you want to teach a squirrel to water ski, you just need to start small and work your way up. Other researchers added punishment to these routines and discovered it too could be used like the pellets to encourage and discourage behavior.

Skinner became convinced conditioning was the root of all behavior and didn’t believe rational thinking had anything to do with your personal life. He considered introspection to be a “collateral product” of conditioning. Like Freud and Einstein, Skinner was a celebrity in his day, and his belief we were all robots was unsettling. He made the cover of Time magazine in 1971. “My book,” said Skinner in the interview, ”is an effort to demonstrate how things go bad when you make a fetish out of individual freedom and dignity. If you insist that individual rights are the summum bonum, then the whole structure of society falls down.”

Some psychologists and philosophers still hold to the idea you are nothing but a sophisticated automaton, like a spider or a fish. You have no freedom, no free will. Your brain is made of atoms and molecules which must obey the laws of physics and chemistry, so some say your mind is locked into service of the rules of the universe like a clock. Everything you have thought, felt and done in your life was the natural mathematical aftermath of the Big Bang.

You may take comfort knowing this is a hotly contested idea, but whether or not you have free will, conditioning is real, and the impact of conditioning can’t be ignored.

There are two kinds of conditioning – classical and operant. In classical conditioning, something which normally doesn’t have any influence over you becomes a trigger for an involuntary response. Normally, flushing the toilet doesn’t produce fear in your heart, but if you are taking a shower and someone flushes the toilet and then the water becomes a scalding torrent, you become conditioned to recoil in terror while in shower the next time you hear the toilet flush. That’s classical conditioning. Something neutral – the toilet flushing – becomes charged with meaning and expectation. You have no control over it. If you have ever been sick after eating or drinking something you love, you will avoid it in the future. The smell of it, or even the thought of it, can make you ill. For me, it’s tequila. Ugh, gross. Classical conditioning keeps you alive. You learn quickly to avoid that which may harm you and seek out that which makes you happy, like an amoeba.

The sort of complex behavior Skinner was able to shape was the result of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning modifies existing behaviors, making them more or less frequent following certain outcomes. Inclinations become greater through reinforcement, or diminish through punishment. You arrive early to the theater, you get a better seat. You frequently wash your hands, you don’t get sick. You pay the rent on time, you don’t get wet when it rains. You don’t rob banks, you don’t go to jail. You play the slot machine and sometimes, every once in a while, you get some money.

It’s all operant conditioning, punishment and reward. Adding and subtracting pain or gaining or losing out on pleasure.

Which finally brings us back to the third factor – extinction.

When you are under the spell of operant conditioning and expect to receive a reward or a punishment after a certain behavior but nothing happens, your conditioned response starts to fade away. If you stop letting your cat in the bedroom after he meows and scratches at the door, he will eventually stop begging to be let in. His behavior will go extinct.

Right as the behavior is breathing its final breath, that’s when you can expect an extinction burst. Your cat will begin meowing like crazy, pawing at the door for what seems like hours.

Parents are very familiar with this pattern, and if you’ve ever seen an episode of The Supernanny, then you’ve probably seen an extinction burst. In one episode, a toddler refused to go to bed in his crib when it was bedtime, and the parents would fight him all night long until he finally went unconscious from exhaustion. The Supernanny suggested they put him in his crib and just sit in the room and ignore him. The extinction burst would come and go, and if he attempted to escape the crib, she told him they should just put him back in and go back to ignoring. They followed her advice, and the extinction burst was massive – screaming, crying, saying all sorts of whimpering, heart imploding things. His little brain was trying every conceivable strategy to avoid extinction. It was a miserable experience for the mother, which was, of course, what the burst was trying to create. The mother cried, but she kept looking at the wall, and after about 20 minutes, the child stopped, lied down, and went to sleep.

Just before you give up on a long-practiced routine, you freak out. It’s a final desperate attempt by the oldest parts of your brain to keep getting rewarded. As Matt Webb explains at Interconnected.org – if you use the same elevator every day to get to avoid climbing 10 flights of stairs, and one day you press the button and nothing happens, you don’t just immediately take the stairs. You start jamming all the buttons over and over again, you get mad, you ask around for help, you talk to other people, you go back and press the buttons again, and then, finally, you take the stairs.

You lock your keys in your apartment, but your roommate is asleep. You ring the doorbell and knock, but they don’t come. You ring the doorbell over and over and over. You start pounding on the door. If your computer freezes up you don’t just walk away, you start clicking all over the place and maybe go so far as to bang your fists on the keyboard. Trying, like the cat at the door and child in the crib, every thing you can think of to bring back the expected results.

These are all extinction bursts. The burst is a temporary increase in a behavior that usually precedes a reward, a plea from the recesses of your psyche as soon as the conditioned response is no longer yielding results.

Here is some great advice from Canine University magazine: “The worst thing you could ever do is give in to a temper tantrum. This goes for adults too, because if you spend enough time observing other people you will notice that people who are used to getting their way will start a temper tantrum immediately after you have refused their request. If you patiently restate your position and stay calm you will see the person eventually give up. Depending upon how long he carries on will tell you how other people have responded to the person in the past. If he has been rewarded for having a fit often enough the extinction burst will be spectacular, enjoy! If it’s short lived, it will be over as quick as it started and you can feel good that you haven’t encouraged it. The best way to eliminate a tantrum is to not give in, wait out the extinction burst (walking away works wonders) and reinforce the absence of the tantrum with your attention as soon as the person stops.”

So, back to that diet.

If you eliminate a reward from your life like awesome and delicious high-calorie foods. Right as you are ready to give it up forever, an extinction burst will threaten to demolish your willpower. You become like a two-year-old in a conniption fit, and like the child, if you give in to the demands, the behavior will be strengthened. The next time you try, the burst will come sooner and it will be stronger. Compulsive overeating is a frenzied state of mind, food addiction under pressure until it bursts.

Diets fail for many reasons, much of them associated with your body trying to survive in a situation where surviving starvation is much less of an issue. To give up overeating, or smoking, lying around watching Netflix as your biceps atrophy, or any bad habit which was formed through conditioning, you must be prepared to weather the secret weapon of your unconscious – the extinction burst.

Become your own Supernanny, your own Dog Whisperer. Look for alternative rewards and positive reinforcement. Set goals, and when you achieve them, shower yourself with garlands of your choosing.

Don’t freak out when it turns out to be difficult. Habits form because you are not so smart, and they cease under the same conditions. If you are ready for the extinction burst and prepared, you can weather the storm and watch it pass. You can watch the bad behavior go extinct, forever, and only see again as a fossil in photographs from previous epochs in your life, part of a previous you. 

Sources

  • “Behavior: Skinner’s Utopia: Panacea, or Path to Hell?” Time. Time Inc., 20 Sept. 1971. Web. 26 July 2010.
  • Biederman, Jim. “Conditioning Examples with Answers.” Conditioning Examples with Answers. Anoka-Ramsey Community College. Web. 26 July 2010. (http://bit.ly/VPXe1O)
  • “Classical Conditioning.” Classical Conditioning. Changing Minds. Web. 26 July 2010. (http://bit.ly/VPXa2n)
  • “Extinction.” Extinction. Changing Minds. Web. 26 July 2010. (http://bit.ly/VPWVEg)
  • “Operant Conditioning Chamber.” Operant Conditioning Chamber. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 26 July. 2010. (http://bit.ly/YWJ0i6)
  • “Three Dogs and Two Babies: So You’re Having a Baby…is Your Dog Prepared? – Canine University.” Three Dogs and Two Babies: So You’re Having a Baby…is Your Dog Prepared? – Canine University. Canine University. Web. 26 July 2010. (http://bit.ly/VPXA8T)
  • Webb, Matt. “Interconnected.” Two Kinds of Training ( 3 Jul., 2008, at ). Interconnected. Web. 26 Aug. 2014. (http://bit.ly/YWJ3dK)

Coffee

The Misconception: Coffee stimulates you.

The Truth: You become addicted to caffeine quickly, and soon you are drinking coffee to cure withdrawal more than for stimulation.

Mmmm, a warm cup of coffee with delicious cream, topped with a frothy head. You smell it brewing and feel cozy inside as you browse cakes and brownies, scones and biscotti. You get some of it in you, and you feel alive again – you feel superhuman.

Suddenly, you feel like John Nash, you can’t keep up with your own mind as geometric symbols float over the magazine articles in your lap. Someone strikes up a conversation about health care, and suddenly everything you’ve ever heard about the topic is at the tip of your tongue.

Damn, coffee is awesome. Except, of course, much of this is an illusion.

The truth is, once you’ve been drinking coffee for a while, the feeling you are getting after a cup isn’t the difference between the normal you and the super you, it’s the difference between the addict before and after a fix.

Ok, this is a very simplified explanation: Caffeine is an adenosine antagonist. This means it prevents adenosine from doing its job. Your brain is filled with keys which fit specific keyholes. Adenosine is one of those keys, but caffeine can fit in the same keyhole. When caffeine gets in there, it keeps adenosine from getting in. Adenosine does a lot of stuff all throughout your body, but the most noticeable job it has is to suppress your nervous system. With caffeine stuck in the keyhole, adenosine can’t calm you down. It can’t make you drowsy. It can’t get you to shut up. That crazy wired feeling you get when you drink a lot of coffee is what it feels like when your brain can’t turn itself off.

To compensate, your brain creates a ton of new receptor sites. The plan is to have more keyholes than false keys. The result is you become very sensitive to adenosine, and without coffee you get overwhelmed by its effects. After eight hours of sleep, you wake up with a head swimming with adenosine. You feel like shit until you get that black gold in you to clean out those receptor sites. That perk you feel isn’t adding anything substantial to you – it’s bringing you back to just above zero.

In addition, coffee stimulates your adrenal glands, which makes you feel like you could take a bullet and eat glass. When the adrenaline runs dry, you feel like you’ve been running a marathon, which leads you to look for more coffee to get those glands pumping again. After a few rides on the adrenal roller-coaster, you crash.

You might think all of this probably takes a while, but it takes about seven days to become addicted to caffeine.

Once addicted, you need more and more coffee to get buzzed as your brain gets covered in receptor sites. Neurologists report seeing patients regularly who drink two or three pots of coffee in one sitting before starting their day.

Coffee also releases dopamine, the feel-good chemical in the brain which is released when you have an orgasm, win the lottery and shoot heroin. A similar addiction cycle with dopamine leads to depression and fatigue when you aren’t hitting the beans.

Finally, caffeine takes about six hours to leave your system. So if you drink coffee six hours or less before going to bed, you won’t reach deep sleep as often. This means you wake up less rested, and need more coffee.

If you’ve been drinking coffee for a while, you aren’t getting nearly as much out of it as you did in the beginning. You are just curing an addiction.

“The take home is that regular use of caffeine produces no benefit to alertness, energy, or function. Regular caffeine users are simply staving off caffeine withdrawal with every dose – using caffeine just to return them to their baseline. This makes caffeine a net negative  for  alertness, or neutral at best if use is regular enough to avoid any withdrawal.”

- Neurologist Stephen Novella from his blog, Neurologica

Mind you, this is not a dependency. You will experience withdrawal symptoms upon cessation, but not like with amphetamines and cocaine. Coffee doesn’t seem to affect the dopaminergic structures related to reward, but before you breathe a sigh of relief, ask yourself how long you’ve been drinking it. Try and stop for two weeks and see how hard it is.

A cup or three will still give you pep, but as with all stimulants, over time you need more and more to reach that golden hum.

Don’t freak out, 90 percent of Americans are just like you, and you are not so smart.


You Are Not So Smart – The Book 

If you buy one book this year…well, I suppose you should get something you’ve had your eye on for a while. But, if you buy two or more books this year, might I recommend one of them be a celebration of self delusion? Give the gift of humility (to yourself or someone else you love). Watch the trailer.

Order now: Amazon Barnes and Noble – iTunes – Books A Million


Links:

Drinking coffee doesn’t make you more alert, new study shows

Caffeine, a drug of abuse?

The effects of chronic caffeine intake on adenosine receptors

Caffeine and adenosine receptors, a genetic view

Caffeine Withdrawal A Recognized Disorder

Adenosine and caffeine at About.com

Tolerance and addiction to coffee at Wikipedia