Genre Talk

Genre Talk: Is Dopamine Behind Our Obsessions?


An article I read yesterday about dopamine and productivity led me to write a post today on my writing healthy blog: How to Hack Dopamine to Increase Writing Productivity. Basically, it now looks like dopamine is not just a pleasure-fix, it looks like its main function is to motivate. Combined with AJ’s post last week about using organic chemistry to world build, it got me thinking about reading and watching our fave genre.


Think about our shared passion for a spell. Especially when we latch onto a series (Hello, BDB). We have GOT to get the next book, and the next, and the next. Sure it’s the incredible stories they weave, but could just the act of finishing such a pleasurable experience increase our need to get another one, another fix, if you will? We even joke about it to other fans–‘this series is like crack’–but could it really be some dopamine we’re hitting?

I have no freaking idea. I’m not a scientist and am really just talking out of my ass on this one, but it makes sense, no? Especially when you think about when you’re in the middle of reading a well-written book, and you’re like–just one more chapter!–you’ve just now activated your reward-response dopamine center in your brain to motivate you to finish that chapter, and maybe make you want to keep going for that high!

I know I’ve also felt that high when I’ve discovered a new TV series and play catch-up on early seasons on Netflix. Soon it’s the wee hours of the morning and I look up and around sporting some drool (that may be a slight exaggeration) and think, where the heck did the time go? My latest time-suck of that nature was the CW’s Arrow.

What do you think? Could dopamine be motivating us to stay attached to a series? What’s been your latest obsession?

6 thoughts on “Genre Talk: Is Dopamine Behind Our Obsessions?

  1. Really interesting! And, yes, I think the Black Dagger Brotherhood is crack on paper–LOL. I do think there’s something to this. It’s as simple as wanting to repeat a thing that gives you great pleasure. There’s always the hope that more more more will bring even greater pleasure. My own current obsession is doing mixed-media art. Which isn’t doing anything for my writing productivity but gives me a creative rush.

    • I love creative rushes! But hey, the mixed media obsession could be helping to refertilize your brain for future writing! Are you anxiously awaiting The King? I’ve already got it pre-ordered at my bookstore, LOL.

  2. I have no idea what Dopamine is, but I do love series, the longer the happier I am. And yes, another fan of BDB here, but the books are just not as good as the first few anymore, and I keep on reading.

  3. I think you’re on to something here too, Angela. I’m more likely to think in spiritual terms, so I tend to say romance novels satisfy some of our deepest longings, and when we read The End, we immediately want more. But I’m also happy to think that neurotransmitters and spirituality go hand in hand in all sorts of ways!

  4. Well, yeah. I wouldn’t know neurotransmitters from a hot dog, but I think it’s true that the shows/books we get obsessed with to that degree are feeding some deeper need than pure entertainment.

    People crave many things that, for whatever reason, they might not be able to get from their real lives: adventure, intelligent and meaningful dialogue, thrilling life and death situations, risk-free sexual attraction, situations with meaning, whatever. It’s not always possible to put my finger on exactly what I’m getting out of the shows/books I love.

    I mean, why the hell do I even watch (let alone love) Game of Thrones, when a) it’s basically all about misery and the bad guys winning; and b) I know what happens? Sure, I’m a creative animal, so I get pleasure out of watching any well-constructed show. Sexy actors always help. But I dunno. I think I just get off on planetary-scale irony 🙂

    Interesting, though, what Xaurianx said: we keep reading/watching our favourites, even when it’s not as good anymore. This is true. What’s that all about? Hope?

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