Why Do People Gamble?

  • You play a video game.
  • You get an unexpected win.
  • You = happy!

Now, imagine playing that same game with predictable results for hours/hours/hours/hours/hours.

The game starts to become boring/boring/boring/boring.


The dopamine (the happy juices) in your brain skyrockets when you experience unexpected happiness, and becomes stagnant when you experience predictable results.

The skyrocketed dopamine addicts drug users to using more-and-more of those drugs; likewise, with anything else that gets you unexpected-happy-goodness, dopamine viciously attracts and addicts the person to the activity.

So How Does That Affect You?

Take gambling.


Dopamine addicts gamblers with those unpredictable wins, so gamblers continue gambling to keep getting those unforeseen highs.

To the rational person, the gambler cumulatively loses money every time he puts in his chips; to the gambler's subconscious, however, he's addicted to those happy highs whenever he wins -- even if he knows he'll lose more money at the end of the day.

Think of yourself as having the gambler's tendency:

  • Making profitable, habitual, boring everyday decisions won't get you the happy juices; therefore, you won't actively seek it.
  • Making risky and unproven decisions does get you the happy juices, as your dopamine skyrockets with every unexpected gain, so your brain actively seeks the risky behavior.

Therefore, you're more prone to making disastrous mistakes that can end up destroying your business, instead of relying on the necessary-but-boring decisions that keep your company increasingly profitable.


What to do?

  1. Make sure you're executing the profitable/everyday/boring necessary decisions; if you can't, try delegating the responsibilities.
  2. Risky behavior does increase innovation; scale it down, though, based on your risk tolerance (Google budgets 20% of engineering time on risky projects)
  3. Channel your addiction to dopamine elsewhere if it's not beneficial to work, like playing a game rich with rewards (Warcraft!)


Punch dopamine IN THE FACE.

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Posted on March 12

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