Frisky, but more risky. In the early 1960s, University of Delaware psychology professor Marvin Zuckerman, PhD, and his fellow researchers noticed something unique about the young men volunteering for their sensory-deprivation experiments: Many were free-spirited types, wearing motorcycle jackets and favoring long hair over the close-cropped style still prevalent in those years.
Yet it seemed to Zuckerman, initially at least, that the experiment couldn't have been more dull: Participants lay motionless for hours on an air mattress in a darkened, double-walled soundproof room, the monotony broken only by restroom breaks and cold sandwiches. Puzzled at the incongruity, Zuckerman then found out what was behind it: Some participants had supposedly experienced hallucinations during prior sensory-deprivation experiments conducted by other scientists, according to newspaper reports. Some of the volunteers now showing up for Zuckerman's experiments came seeking the same hallucinogenic sensations, he says. Extreme Psychology. Rock climbing and other extreme sports put athletes at risk of serious injury or death.
Psychologists are studying the reasons that drive people to such extremes. [Credit: Carl A, flickr.com] Rich Gottlieb lumbers through his rock-climbing store, slightly favoring his right side. He’s dressed in a black sweat suit and a heavy pair of hiking boots. Dark circles under his eyes cast a weary shadow across his face. Gottlieb, who’s been rock and ice climbing in the Adirondack Mountains of New York for 35 years, has taken his lumps. Psychologists might classify Rich Gottlieb as a sensation-seeker based on how he chooses to spend his free time, risking his life for a sport.
Gottlieb’s extreme sport experiences resonate with those of sports psychologist Eric Brymer at the University of Queensland in Australia. In the last thirty years, extreme sports participation in the United States alone has more than tripled. Desperately Seeking Sensation: Fear, Reward, and the Human Need for Novelty. Why are some people drawn to intense, even fear-inducing thrills while others shun the mere thought?
How is it that the same horror movie can be entertainment to one person and tension-filled torture to another? Is something different going on in the brains of these people? Sensation-seeking, the tendency to seek out novel experiences, is a general personality trait that has been extensively studied in psychological research, but neuroscience is just beginning to take aim at it. Beyond understanding why one person relishes the fright factor while the next studiously avoids it, scientists are asking how sensation-seeking relates to substance abuse, addiction, and anxiety disorders like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, areas where the clinical and public-health implications are most clear.
Neuroscience is beginning to tease apart how the brain of a high-sensation seeker might be different from that of someone who generally avoids risk. An Overactive ‘Approach’ System? 1. 2. 3. 4. Extreme Sports Addiction. Many people become addicted to substances or practices that have a negative impact on normal biological functioning.
Illegal drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin, as well as the mind-altering chemicals found in bath salts or inhalants, are examples of substances that begin to cause damage to the human organism immediately after they are consumed, even before an addiction has the chance to develop. However, it is also possible to become addicted to substances, activities and practices that do not have deleterious effects on the mind/body system, and are therefore not inherently dangerous in and of themselves.
In fact, in some instances these potential sources of addiction can actually promote good health if they are used or performed in moderation. Exercise is an excellent example of an activity that is immensely beneficial in most cases but can cause more harm than good if practiced obsessively or without restraint. Extreme genetics and brain chemistry. The Neurochemicals of Happiness. Sensation-Seeking - Psychology Today. Sensation seeking and participation in physical risk sports.
Midbrain Dopamine Receptor Availability Is Inversely Associated with Novelty-Seeking Traits in Humans (2008) Sensation-seeking: Dopaminergic modulation and risk for psychopathology (2015) A Phenomenological Investigation of the Psychology of Big-Wave Surfing at Maverick’s - The Sport Psychologist (2014) Risk taking in Extreme Sports : A phenomenological perspective - Brymer (2010) Big Think Interview With Marvin Zuckerman.
Transcript Marvin Zuckerman: Marvin Zuckerman, Professor Emeritus, from the University of Delaware.
Question: What is sensory deprivation? Marvin Zuckerman: Sensory deprivation is where you put people in dark, sound-proof rooms, or water tanks. People were becoming aware that we needed sensation stimulation, variation stimulation almost as much as we need food and water and so forth. It’s a basic need. So we asked, is there a personality trait that some people need more stimulation or more variety or intensity of stimulation than others? Question: How much of the sensation-seeking trait is determined genetically? Marvin Zuckerman: Well this is determined from twin studies called Biometrics of Behavior Genetics actually. Question: Was sensation-seeking a factor in human evolution? Marvin Zuckerman: Well we can surmise that particularly since a particular gene has been found to be related to sensation-seeking, a dopamine receptor gene. Same think in thrill seekers. The Genetic Basis of Risk-Seeking.
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