Dopamine-Oxytocin Combo

Dopamine and Oxytocin enhance pleasure, but how? When we are first exposed to sexually arousing stimuli, certain neurochemical changes take place. Our brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in a plethora of functions- pleasure, arousal, desire, and attraction, to name a few. Dopamine also plays a big role in motivation and drive, which is why dopamine-enhancing drugs work well in syndromes like ADD, where lack of motivation is an issue. Because of the strong association dopamine has with both arousal/desire and motivation, it is also thought to play a role in addiction.

After our brain releases dopamine, we feel attracted to the object of our attention. We are compelled to draw closer to it, to experience it more fully. If we are stimulated enough to a point of high arousal, like right before or during orgasm, oxytocin is triggered. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that is associated with attachment. When we interface with a person or object, and our brain releases oxytocin, we naturally form an attachment to it. Oxytocin has been found to be a big player in mother-baby bonding, and there have even been very recent studies that show artificial administration of oxytocin makes males more sensitive and helps autistic children form social relationships.

The Dopamine Oxytocin (DO) combo can be a pretty strong weapon in the game of attraction- a pure biochemical love-potion, if you will. And the thing is, you don’t even have to engage in sexual activity in order to prime these neurotransmitter responses, which is why fantasies are so powerful. You create the sexual images in your mind, and your brain responds neurochemically, even in the absence of tactile stimuli.

So one can argue that fantasies can be just as arousing as a flesh and blood person, maybe even more so. It all boils down to Classical Conditioning. Research has already shown how paired association of a pleasurable stimulus with a neutral stimulus can cue the release of dopamine from the neutral stimulus following training. You can think of past sexual experiences as the “training condition”, and the DO combo as the cued response. After you’ve experienced the pleasure of sex, certain images and conditions that remind your brain of that experience can cue that DO combo response even in the absence of the the stimulus (sex).

If you are able to deftly prime those neurotransmitters to be released, you can effectively chemically coerce people into just about anything. The mere image of sexual activity or the strong suggestion of it can be enough to cue the response, get that dopamine flowing, and oxytocin comes running in right behind.

The point is, all things equal, if you are presented with two things, and one of them induces a sexual response, that is the item or person you will be drawn to. It doesn’t matter if it is real, virtual, 2D, 3D, 4D, or all in your mind. All it needs to do is trigger the DO combo, and it is a done deal. As the author puts it “nothing like being a slave to your neurotransmitters, eh?”

Source: Science 2.0; The Science Of Pleasure: Your Brain On Sexual Imagery; Andrea Kuszewski; August 14th 2010

The More People Want Something, the Less They’ll Like It

The findings of a research conducted at Stanford University Graduate School of Business suggests that denying people access to a product will make them desire it more and work harder to get it—but will also make them less likely to keep it.

The boost to value comes from knowing we devoted extra effort to acquiring it, but it also has a negative self concept impact because we did not succeed on the first try. Desire and liking are independent from each other and also interact in strange ways. The more we want something, the less we’ll actually like it. It’s a lusting/loathing thing. The lusting/loathing effects were more intense with people who were less emotional, as measured on standard scales. “Emotional” people did not show the effect as strongly.

The results of this research make it clear that marketers should be cautious about using a strategic shortage to generate demand. It will increase demand right now but can have other costs. It will have implications for other products in your brand, repeat purchases, and loyalty. It comes down to what the goal of the company is. If it’s to make quarterly numbers, denying access may be a useful tool. It could be that marketers know what they’re doing and want those short-term gains; but it’s not a healthy long-term strategy.

Source: Harvard Business Review
Uzma Khan is an assistant professor of marketing at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business

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