If uncertainty increases enjoyment, then MMA is the perfect sport. If I wanted to use my digits to count the number of times I’ve had to remove my jaw from the floor, or watched a fight through my fingers, I’d need to have the limbs of at least ten people. Emotionally, we all look like Gary LaPlante when we watch a fight. This is a great example of the psychology of expectation. It is evolutionarily beneficial for us to be able to predict and thus expect the outcomes of uncertain events but psychological loopholes can be exploited for the purposes of an emotional response. I’ll explain.
A violation of expectation is essentially external activities forcing your brain to make a mistake, which it then has to learn about in order to not make the same mistake again. If you don’t learn, there is a good chance you may be removed from the gene pool. Learning is so vital to the continued existence of your genes that a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is responsible for pleasurable feelings of anticipation, is released when learning. In a nutshell, this is why uncertainty increases enjoyment – both expected and unexpected events result in dopamine release, either as a reward for predicting the future or as an incentive to learn. If you have any way of measuring your dopamine production, you can test this out for yourself by watching this short video of UFC fighter Paul Sass violating your expectation as he sets up a flying triangle as if he was Anthony Pettis.
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