Personal Productivity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people wanting to improve their personal productivity. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Dopamine is the substance your brain makes when you are glued to the television or facebook. It's the stuff that makes you 'want' something. Is it possible to use reverse-psychology and use tricks to trigger dopamine at will?

How do you efficiently trick your brain into releasing dopamine to want to do a crappy job?

share|improve this question
Are you talking about short-term dopamine boost, long-term or overall improvement? – Renan Mar 26 '12 at 14:54
I would like to state that I do not get a dopamine boost from Facebook! – Jeff Mar 27 '12 at 2:21
up vote 7 down vote accepted

This is actually part of the way conditioning works in many animals, including humans.

The idea is that during conditioning you carry out the task, then get the reward (money, food, success, whatever) which gives you your dopamine kick

Repetition conditions your body to always expect the reward after the task, so eventually just carrying out the task makes your body produce dopamine.

quick ref if you like jargon: Institute for Theoretical Biology

share|improve this answer
The link is broken. :'( – Memming Sep 15 '13 at 14:31

Turning task into game or story worked for me :)

share|improve this answer

Interesting question. It is suggested ...

that the placebo effect may be linked to reward mechanisms

...and you are asking how to trick yourself into doing a crappy task and yet stimulate the brain to 'want' to do that task. I think your question is similar to "How can a firewalker not feel pain?" The old saying "mind over matter" holds true. If you can frame things in the correct way internally, you can get that dopamine release.

As far as practical suggestions, I would love to hear some brainstorming here. Off the top of my head:

  • I think one needs to incorporate some type of reward system for progress milestones or achievement.
  • If that task can be done on auto-pilot, the addition of background audio might add to the desire to do the task.
  • More of a stretch might be to somehow see your progress real-time (through a widget or some other metric measurement) to reward yourself intrinsically (vs. goals?).
  • Brainwash yourself into thinking the task is truly fun/interesting
  • ???
share|improve this answer

Take a quarter of a nicotine lozenge. Nicotine is somewhat unique in that it really does trigger a more global association (which is why quitting smoking is so hard - everything is associated with smoking). Be careful not to overdo this since nicotine is highly addictive.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.