You Get an Addictive Dopamine Rush When You Watch Infomercials The news is out: Infomercials are designed to increase dopamine levels in the brain. This is very significant because dopamine is highly associated with addictive behaviors. If you find yourself watching As Seen on TV products or home shopping channels, you just might be an infomercial addict. Here is what consumer reports says:
The secret lies in neuroscience. Infomercials are carefully scripted to pump up dopamine levels in your brain, says Martin Lindstrom, an advertising expert and author of “Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy,” which details how ads affected 2,000 research subjects. “Infomercials take viewers on a psychological roller-coaster ride,” Lindstrom says. The fun starts with dramatizations of a problem you didn’t know you had, followed by the incredible solution, then a series of ever more amazing product benefits, bonuses, and giveaways, all leading to the last thrilling plunge of an unbelievably low price. After the ride, Lindstrom says, “dopamine levels drop in 5 or 6 minutes. That’s why infomercials ask you to buy in the next 3 minutes.”
How Exactly Do Infomercials Pump Up Dopamine Levels?
Infomercials increase dopamine levels because they create a problem that drives our brains nuts. Then they offer a quick and easy solution. The mere fact our brain identifies this solution produces some dopamine. It’s our brains way of rewarding us for moving our species forward.
“Dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to meet them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.”¹
So basically buying something on that solves a problem you never knew you had gives you a sense of accomplishment (dopamine).
What Is Dopamine
Dopamine is our brains way of rewarding us to do certain activities. Apparently, it’s very powerful and gives us much energy to do certain things. (Our brains will seek food in many respects because dopamine is released). Here is a video that explains the specifics of dopamine and its relevance to addiction. It also explains the reward mechanisms.
Impulsiveness & Dopamine
NPR says that some people do not have dopamine regulators–or a ‘dopamine thermostat.’ These people would be more susceptible to TV shopping addiction. Because their dopamine center is unregulated, they will be more motivated to get a dopamine rush by watching and buying on TV (or any other behavior that generates dopamine). They can’t just stop thinking about the product on TV or their dopamine levels will decrease. Decreased dopamine levels are associated with pain. This may be why this woman, on ABCNEWS 20/20, says she is addicted to infomercials.
It’s late at night and you’re watching TV when an infomercial comes on. You don’t need a food dehydrator, but there’s a part of you that wants it anyway. You look at your phone. What happens next may come down to how impulsive you are. Impulsiveness is about more than shopping — impulsive people are vulnerable to substance abuse and some forms of mental illness… “I think that there is a circuitry of self-control that’s fundamental to many, many aspects of living,” agrees Edythe London, a psychiatrist at UCLA. London says that understanding the dopamine thermostat and others may eventually lead to treatments for addiction and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Those treatments might be drugs, or they might be new therapies that reinforce the thermostats and improve their performance.
Now in light of these studies we find new meaning to the term ‘buyers remorse’ — the loss of dopamine.
“Infomercial Products: Consumer Reports Investigates.” Consumer Reports: Expert Product Reviews and Product Ratings from Our Test Labs. Web. 01 Sept. 2011. <http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2010/february/shopping/infomercial-products/overview/infomercial-products-ov.htm>. “The Science of Setting Goals.” Your Daily Digest on Productivity and Life Improvements – Stepcase Lifehack. Web. 01 Sept. 2011. <http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/the-science-of-setting-goals.html>.