The Molecule of More Book Summary - The Molecule of More Book explained in key points
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The Molecule of More summary

Daniel Z. Lieberman and Michael E. Long

How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity – and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race

4.7 (413 ratings)
26 mins

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The Molecule of More by Daniel Z. Lieberman and Michael E. Long explains how the dopamine molecule drives us to pursue pleasure and seek novelty. It offers insights into the human desire for more and how we can manage it to lead a fulfilled life.

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    The Molecule of More
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    Dopamine is the molecule of possibilities.

    If you’ve heard about dopamine before, you likely know it as the brain’s feel-good chemical.

    Indeed, after the researcher Kathleen Montagu first identified dopamine in a human brain in 1957, scientists quickly dubbed her discovery “the pleasure molecule.” That’s because pleasure is exactly what people feel when dopamine is active in their brains. 

    Further research on rats proved that dopamine activity was at its highest when animals received tasty food. Scientists named the parts of the brain involved in this reaction the dopamine reward circuit.

    As scientific terms go, this name is fairly simple – but it’s also misleading. There’s much more to dopamine than stimulus and reward.

    The key message here is: Dopamine is the molecule of possibilities.

    It turns out that dopamine doesn’t really care about tasty food. In fact, it doesn’t really care about anything that is predictable. Instead, dopamine gets released when we encounter things that are new, unexpected, and exciting. 

    The bigger and better the surprise, the more dopamine our brain releases – and the more pleasure we feel. The high is greatest when we make a reward prediction error in other words, when we encounter an outcome that’s better than what we expected. 

    Just think of the rush you get when you check your bank account and realize that you have more money than you thought. That’s the dopamine high of unexpected good news.

    Recently, scientists have proposed that our brain divides the world into two separate regions: near and far. Everything that’s close to us – the things we can touch, see, and feel at any given moment – falls into the “near” category. Anything that’s out of our immediate reach – figuratively or literally – falls into the “far” category

    Dopamine gets you excited about the things that fall into the “far” category, and motivates you to pursue them. It encourages a hunter to track that elusive animal, an office worker to apply for that coveted promotion, a shopper to buy that powerful car.

    From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense. After all, the food we have is already here, right in front of us. It’s the food that we don’t yet have that could decide whether we live or die. And that’s why dopamine evolved to make us chase our dreams.

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    What is The Molecule of More about?

    The Molecule of More (2020) reveals how one brain chemical kindles our desires, fuels our creativity, and makes us fall in love. Using the latest insights from psychology, neuroscience, and social studies to investigate the role of this powerful brain chemical in our thoughts and behavior, it explains what science can teach us about drug addiction, mental illness, and political disagreements.

    Best quote from The Molecule of More

    Liberals want to help people become better, conservatives want to let people be happy, and politicians want power.

    —Daniel Z. Lieberman and Michael E. Long
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    Who should read The Molecule of More?

    • Science enthusiasts interested in the mysteries of the human brain
    • Mind-wanderers, achievement addicts, and other restless souls 
    • Anyone looking for neurochemical balance in their lives

    About the Author

    Daniel Z. Lieberman is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at George Washington University. He has published over 50 scientific reports on behavioral science.

    Michael E. Long is an award-winning author, speechwriter, screenwriter, and playwright. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics.

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