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donjoe comments on How to Beat Procrastination - Less Wrong

156 Post author: lukeprog 05 February 2011 06:49PM

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Comment author: donjoe 18 May 2014 03:47:17PM 4 points [-]

Actually, the Expectancy (probability of success) component is not that simple: you don't just maximize it to maximize motivation. As Robert Sapolsky shows in "The Uniqueness of Humans" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrCVu25wQ5s), motivation is proportional to the dopamin spike you get when you start to consider performing a task, and the dopamin spike is highest the closer your estimated probability of success is to (something like) 50%! The amount of dopamin produced when you consider starting a task that you have 25% or 75% chances of succeeding at will be significantly lower than for the 50%-chance task. So it's not that you need to be certain about your success, it's that you need to be pleasantly challenged, somewhere midway between "I'm so gonna fail" and "I'm so sure I can do this I find it absolutely boring" (though this sweet spot may not be at exactly 50% for everyone).

Comment author: Simulation_Brain 01 August 2014 10:43:04PM 0 points [-]

Perhaps you're thinking of the dopamine spike when reward is actually given? I had thought the predictive spike was purely proportional to the odds of success and the amount of reward- which would indeed change with boring tasks, but not in any linear way. If you're right about that basic structure of the predictive spike I should know about it for my research; can you give a reference?

Comment author: donjoe 21 August 2014 09:19:55PM 0 points [-]

Well, the relationship Sapolsky described wasn't linear, it was more like a bell curve. And no, he doesn't cite any particular study in that lecture, so all I have is his word on this one. I guess you could just ask him. :)