When something that is rewarding or harmful occurs, we modify our behavior to increase the chance of a reward, and reduce the chance of harm. This kind of learning is known as reinforcement by behavior, and it is crucial to help people survive in the world.
The majority of neuroscience research into reward-based reinforcement centers around three areas of the brain that include the ventral tegmental region (VTA) and Nucleus Acumbens (NAc) as well as the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The VTA creates and releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter. Dopamine is released naturally through the VTA whenever something exciting occurs for example, scratching off a lottery ticket that is winning or winning the top prize in the photo contest, eating an incredible cookie, experiencing an orgasm…you can see the picture.
The NAc is commonly called the reward processing center. If the VTA is stimulated by an incentive, dopamine is released in the NAc which leads to a satisfying feeling. The amount that the reward is (e.g. that initial click of a brand new camera could be more satisfying than an exhale for certain people but not for other people) the sensation can vary from happiness to exhilaration.
Dopamine producing neurons transmit their axons into brain regions that comprise the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the nucleus of accumbens (NAc)
In the end, the PFC is able, partly, to regulate the impulsive pursuit of rewards. When a reward is offered, the PFC also releases dopamine, which draws our attention to the event that led to the reward, which allows us to later find items that we are sure will bring us happiness.
Although the PFC plays a significant role in the process of locating rewards, it’s essential to stop our instinctive search for these rewards. For example, if you’re faced with a deadline that is due by 5PM, it’s beneficial to block your desire to hit the bar at 9AM, place some bets that are risky at the dog track and later, get on the bus to get to home. The PFC hinders the impulsive pursuit of rewards by directly influencing the VTA and NAc.
A model of neuroscience and cognitive thinking of impulsivity and stress
The stress we experience affects our ability to pursue satisfaction. When we experience stress your body responds by release of stress hormones. The hormones released are distributed throughout your body and the brain. Stress hormones diminish our ability to thwart impulsive behavior and boost the desire for rewards. As a result of stress, we may be not able to control our the desire to find rewards that ease anxiety. In this article, I will discuss about a possible source of stress that can trigger the syndrome of gear acquisition.
What are the stresses that affect the reward-inhibition balance within the brain of photographers? There are numerous sources of stress can be derived from the uncertainty that’s inherent in the process of creation. The process of starting a new photography project typically means we are in uncharted territory. This can create anxiety as we’re exposing ourselves to the possibility of failure.
Olivier Duong captured in his confessional: I was not confident regarding my photography, so I found the problem in my cameras. When you purchase a brand new camera, you feel that you’re Eugene Smith or something. However, after the excitement I was looking for my next solution to conceal my anxieties. This is why I couldn’t possess enough cameras.
The fear of creating can be crippling and stop anyone from starting an entirely new venture or even taking photos. Two psychological theories that can explain this kind of behavior. The first is known as catastrophic thinking. The other is anxiety-inducing avoidance behavior. Catastrophic thinking is a kind of cognitive distortion where one over-emphasizes the most dangerous possibilities when beginning (or considering beginning) anything new. The thought of catastrophe can cause stress and hinder our ability to explore new ideas (i.e. behavioral avoidance, which is discussed later). This type of thinking has been illustrated by the Photographers David Bayles and Ted Orland in their book Art & Fear:
Avoidance behavior is one method (albeit it is not always the best good approach) to reduce anxiety. Most often, avoidance behavior occurs when people are worried about their weaknesses and judgement. Avoidance is a non-adaptive response mechanism. If the stress associated with the fear of failing is high enough, it could change the purpose that the reward system performs. In particular, it diminishes the capacity to block the impulses to seek reward and increases reward-seeking behaviour to deal with stress.
Imagine you’re looking to begin a new venture however you feel overwhelmed when you start the project. Then, perhaps, negative thoughts appear, which leads to further negative thoughts, which spiral into panic and avoidance. What’s the point of starting when you’ll expose yourself to those emotions of stress over what you’re certain will be the ultimate failure? Instead, you could improve your mood by purchasing a new camera. This is an easily justified (given that you’re a professional photographer) and also a reward that reduces stress.
The excitement of purchasing new toys isn’t long-lasting. We all know that becoming accustomed to a brand new gadget happens very quickly. The process of habituation is called which is the most straightforward kind of learning. When we purchase new equipment, we become accustomed to it and then search for rewards, which are typically larger and more effective that are the same as drug abuse.
The drugs can cause a high however, as you continue to use them, the feeling diminishes and less. In order to experience the same high that it once was, you must consume more of the substance. For photographers, the excitement of buying something new could eventually cause a change in. This could cause purchases to be more frequent or more expensive in price as a means to counter the effects of habituation.
It’s not a surprise that camera manufacturers create brand new models for each market that is possible, and through photography blogs, hypnotize the latest technology. There’s a plethora of equipment to purchase and when purchasing gear is used to lessen stress, an ensuing reward-stress cycle is created, which leads to the gear acquisition syndrome.
The battle against gear acquisition syndrome isn’t an easy task and something that has to be considered when you are a photographer. The constant bombardment of new equipment creating the wrong thing, and exposing yourself to failure is a daunting task and purchasing new equipment will not solve the problem. Research has shown that investing money in items can be extremely rewarding, however only for a brief period of time.
A way that joy can be sustained and increased is through acquiring fresh experiences. making new experiences and defining the memories. One example is going to a trip with a friend or loved one, If you’re anything like me, the person you love most learns to take a few books. It requires courage to make and it’s inevitable that anxiety will be present. Beating fear is an integral an important aspect of this process, and at the end of the day, finding the personal satisfaction that comes from overcoming life’s challenges is rewarding.
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