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Genetic Reason for Your Gadget Habit 239

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the well-lookie-there dept.
You can't help it if you need to get the latest gadgets. Well... perhaps it's not quite such a serious medical affliction, but scientists have found a genetic basis for some folks' burning desire to have the latest and greatest. There's even a name for it - neophilia. Apparently, some of us have elevated levels of a cellular enzyme, monoamine oxidase A, and are more in need of stimulation from new things.
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Genetic Reason for Your Gadget Habit

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  • by habedak (969855) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:08AM (#15705010)
    Neophilia is wanting new things...
    as opposed to Necrophilia, which is wanting things that aren't really 'fresh' anymore.
  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:11AM (#15705033) Homepage
    So now geeks join the culture of victimhood - "it's not my fault, its my [genes|society|enviroment]!". Congratulations on finally joining the mainstream!
    • by wwest4 (183559) * on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:51AM (#15705373)
      Maybe there's a name to describe predictable knee-jerk reactions.

      Tell me, does your concept of free will allow for constraints? If not, I challenge you to breathe water. And I don't want to hear any crap about how your genetics predispose you to breathing air.

      • Actually, genetics *doesn't* predispose you to breathing air. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_breathing [wikipedia.org]

        But that's beside the point. Oxygenation of the blood is essential to life. Buying new things is not. One defines who you are. The other defines who you can decide to be if you just follow your instincts. If your instincts enrich your life or are neutral, their's little need to change them. If they impact your life negatively, then change them. It's a simple and as difficult as that.

        Yes, fighting
    • Your cynicism is typical of right-wing whiners: your kind can't look at a scientific result without either misusing it for political purposes or accusing/suspecting other people of doing so. A genetic basis for novelty seeking is just a scientific fact, and not even a surprising or new one. Deal with it.

      In fact, most of our behaviors will likely turn out to have a genetic basis. A genetic basis or predisposition doesn't say anything a priori about the personal responsibility to act in certain ways.

      And, y
    • The number of possible afflicitions, disorders, etc. begins to saturate the population such that it becomes apparant that everybody has *something* wrong with them. At that point, everybody becomes just like everyone else again and we can once again refocus on taking ownership/responsibility for our own issues.

      Either that, or everybody is on drugs to deal with their personal "disorders".

      So, the worst case is that we live in a society where smoking is banned, but you can take all the doctor prescribed mood
  • Who cares? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:12AM (#15705042)
    The scientific details are unimportant. The real question is, as it's not my fault, who can I sue over this?
  • by e1618978 (598967) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:12AM (#15705043)
    Is there a way to cut the levels of this enzyme? I need to get my wife to stop
    filling my house with crap from wal-mart and sams club. It isn't gadgets, but
    I imagine that the need for new stuff would be filled via other means for
    people that don't like electronics.
    • Re:Is there a cure? (Score:2, Informative)

      by brianf711 (873109)
      You can decrease its activity with MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors), also known as anti-depressants.
      • I was just about to post some tongue-in-cheek comments about MAOIs... firstly you really don't want to try and "treat" this with a MAOI, these things are used as a last resort if everything else fails because they interact with virtually anything else you take (including food) in ways ranging from slightly problematic through to fatal. Since MAOI's can have permanent effects on brain functions (i.e. the effects don't go away once you stop taking the medication), it's also something you have to be pretty de
    • by Golias (176380) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:22AM (#15705131)
      No, see... That's called "decorating", and it's a normal behavior for human females. Those plants, wall hangings, and curios are supposed to serve the purpose of making your house look like somebody other than a Spartan warrior is living there.

      The alternative to having all that "crap" in your house is a divorce, after which you will probably never have to worry about a home cluttered by possessions again.
      • And remember, without competent (and expensive) technical support, uninstalling Wife 1.0 will automatically install Alimony 1.0, which is a big resource hog...
      • No, see... That's called "decorating", and it's a normal behavior for human females. Those plants, wall hangings, and curios are supposed to serve the purpose of making your house look like somebody other than a Spartan warrior is living there.

        If you think that's bad, try kids! I don't mind stuff on the walls, but random toys on the floor, hurt! You almost have to wear steel-tiped boots in order to safely get a midnight snack. Do yourself a favor and don't get your kids toys such as lincon logs, wooden bloc
    • Re:Is there a cure? (Score:4, Informative)

      by milamber3 (173273) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:22AM (#15705135)
      There are ways to cut the levels, MAOI drugs which inhibit MAO's from breaking down the monoanime neurotransmitters (dopamine, epinephrine, serotonin) are pretty powerful anti-depressants. Unfortunately they have some very unfriendly reactions with other meds as well as side effects and increased health risks. MAO's do so much more than just make you want new stuff.
      • IANAD, but what about drugs that affect just one of those three enzymes, such as SSRI's? (I use the example since I am most familiar with the use of those for treating depression.)
        • Re:Is there a cure? (Score:2, Informative)

          by milamber3 (173273)
          We do have drugs that affect one, some, or all of them. Norepinephrine is made from epinephrine which is made from dopamine and you can inhibit the cascade in multiple places. The problem is that they do so many different things manipulating them to have a positive benefit is very tricky. The same goes for serotonin, SSRI's have that first S for selective by necessity, it allows them to have some positive benefit but they are also very mild as anti-depressants go. When you start increasing serotonin thro
    • by bitt3n (941736) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:32AM (#15705228)
      Is there a way to cut the levels of this enzyme?

      yes! I have developed a brand new, never seen before cure for this affliction. I bet you want some now, don't you?

    • Just be glad its the WalMart or Sam's. It could be worse. Take her to some of the upscale places and turn her loose. See how fast the plastic melts.
    • The monoamine oxidases are responsible for breaking down certain neurotransmitters in the body (monoamines like adrenaline, noradrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin). I assume (read the article, not the paper) what this research is getting at is that this certain form of monoamine oxidase A is more effective in breaking down neurotransmitters- perhaps dopamine in particular, as dopamine is an important factor in the body's "reward" system.

      I'd imagine that such "neophiliacs" have a sort of addiction to nove

    • According to wikipedia, smoking tobacco will lower your level of this chemical... for me though I'll take a new gadget over smoking.
    • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors are an important class of antidepressants, and the most widely used before the newer SSRIs.

      Too much MAO means that dopamine and serotonin are being broken down too fast, and those are both important neurotransmitters.

      So, the interesting question here is: Has anybody noticed a connection between "neophilia" and any psychological affective disorders like depression or OCD?
  • by BluePariah (987431) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:13AM (#15705046)
    you had neophilia and amnesia at the same time. Imagine the pleasure of discovering your new right hand every 20 seconds.
  • by tgd (2822) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:13AM (#15705048)
    Apparently, some of us have elevated levels of a cellular enzyme, monoamine oxidase A, and are more in need of stimulation from new things.

    I keep telling my girlfriend that, but she just won't go for it.
    • I keep telling my girlfriend that, but she just won't go for it.

      Funny, the first thing I thought of when I saw the word neophilia is people who get restless in relationships after a short time and have difficulties with commitment.

      But this is Slashdot, and the context we find it in is... Gadgets!
  • Hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by MrSquirrel (976630) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:13AM (#15705053)
    I have a strange urge to possess a gadget that can measure the level of this "gadget disease" in people.
  • by milamber3 (173273) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:14AM (#15705064)
    Before it was, tell all the parents their child has ADD/ADHD and that's why he/she wont sit still or pay attention in class. Now doctors will be saying that the kids need all this new stuff and throw temper tantrums because of their genetically elevated monoamine oxidase A and not that they are spoiled/greedy/etc.
    • by rtobyr (846578) <toby&richards,net> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:16AM (#15705088) Homepage
      Perhaps it works the other way around. Children who are spoiled and greedy DEVELOP elevated levels of monoamine oxidase A as a result.
      • Very possible, I could see constantly exposing a developing brain to every new (toy, gadget, thing) might cause changes similar to that seen in drug addicts. There would be elevated MAO to get rid of the excess dopamine which was being released and then when the stimulation of new toys was cut off a resulting excessive down regulation of dopamine would cause some type of withdraw symptoms. This is somewhat of a strech, just as being addicted to video games and the internet is a strech, still its plausable

      • Perhaps it works the other way around. Children who are spoiled and greedy DEVELOP elevated levels of monoamine oxidase A as a result.

        Hmmmmm ... seems to be backwards for me then. I didn't have much growing up, parents immigrated from Vietnam with kids in tow. Toys were scarce as a kid. But as an adult with money to spend, I find myself compensating for my lack-of-toys childhood.

      • Whatever the reason, they're going to need lots and lots of very expensive, and very patented anti-monoamine oxidase A to make them fit in at school.
        • ...to make them fit in at school.

          You've really hit the point, there. When I read the article, my first impression is that they've lumped together what I perceive as 2 separate gadget groups. One group really enjoys new gadgets, loves widgets and doodads and anything that clicks, whirrs, and blinks. The other group wants to be seen with the latest technology as a social status symbol. There's an overlap, sure, but just because people want something new doesn't mean they really like the new thing. It's par
        • Extract the monoamine oxidase A from the little urchins and sell it to car dealerships to put in their free coffee. Kids get less greedy, potential car buyers want more tricked out and expensive cars....everybody wins.

          Tell me that ain't a plan...

      • In fact all these problems/victimization come from an interesting issue : We come at the level where we can say "this reaction, this mood is caused because of this molecule in the brain". We can even diagnose a higher molecular reaction for some people, a dependance for others, different secretion schemes. We begin to see the inner workings of the brain and "normal" people, the "mainstream" population (if such a thing even exist in the mythical big blue room) discover that there is stuff inside their skulls
  • by rtobyr (846578) <toby&richards,net> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:14AM (#15705065) Homepage
    I wonder if people with elevated levels of monoamine oxidase A are more inclined to engage in infidelity, citing the need for a variety of partners.
  • Extent (Score:3, Insightful)

    by trifish (826353) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:15AM (#15705073)
    I wonder whether I suffer from neophilia too when I fall in love with a new girl each week...
  • Opposite (Score:5, Funny)

    by ch-chuck (9622) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:15AM (#15705075) Homepage
    I guess the opposite would be retrophilia - the love of buying other people's junk off eBay, while dreaming of hitting the jackpot on Antiques Roadshow, or browsing antique shops while dreaming of making a fortune on eBay.

  • Biologists have traced this enzyme all the way back to the stone age, when people who had it would always need to have the latest and greatest club and stone hammer.
  • Can anyone else see this as a response to infidelity:

    "I had to cheat on you. I have an elevated amount of monoamine oxidase A, and I needed someone new."

    Response: "I don't care. I'm still taking half your crap."
  • the popularity of pr0n.... I mean 99% of the stuff is 99% the same except for the haircut or the camera angle... but for a genetic addiction to new, apparently the grass is ALWAYS greener.
  • Grow out of it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:18AM (#15705096)
    When I was younger I would have fit the neophilia profile. I had to have the latest video game system and all of the games, the latest stereo, latest everything. I've noticed that over the past 10 years or so I've become less interested in technology in general. Mind you I'm still heavily engrossed in technology every day (I'm a programmer), but I'm finding that I just don't care anymore. Maybe its just the stress of it all, I don't know. Has anyone else experienced this?
    • I can relate to that. It used to be that I would upgrade my computer around every six months, had to have the latest pda or gadget and the newest game consoles. A few years ago I went through a bout of unemployment and couldnt afford the new toys. I sold my ps2 and my xbox (kept my gamecube) and stopped upgrading my computer. Unemployment was short but two years later I still havent bothered to replace anything. I did finally upgrade my computer but only after my boss bought a buch of parts and told me
    • by eln (21727) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:32AM (#15705224) Homepage
      Yes, I found that once I grew up and actually had to pay for my own gadgets, my desire for said gadgets declined steeply.
    • Exactly the same here. I was for years the proverbial early adopter in all areas of tech toys - consoles, PCs, home cinema etc. Now I just look at it and think "what's the point?". I figured it was down to becoming a parent and having A) less disposable cash (OK, no disposable cash) and B) realising there are far more important things in life than shiny stuff. Mmmmm shiny stuff..... Where was I? Oh yes, I also noticed I started to feel *worse* after buying new stuff as it added little to my life except more
    • Re:Grow out of it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 93,000 (150453) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:50AM (#15705360)
      I have the same feelings, and I think it's mainly a matter of realizing the whole 'perceived reward vs. actual reward'. I used to always long for gadgets, etc, just KNOWING that they would make my life great and imagining how cool/happy/satisfied I'd be if I only had one. Whatever the item is, no matter how great, it's never what I build it up to be in my head. The high of having this new shiny thing wears off in about a day -- the credit card balance sticks around quite a bit longer to rub it in.

      After having this happen a time or four, I've started really questioning what a product will bring me. For example, I've been really wanting to get an iPod to replace my $15 diskman that plays mp3 cds.

      The Perception: said iPod would be new and shinny and cute and hip and hold 20,000 songs and I'd have it with me all the time and it would vastly improve my life.

      The Reality: I'd only wear it to mow my fucking lawn, just like I do now with the diskman.

      I think I just saved about $300.
    • Me too. I am totally burned out on technology. Maybe one of these days I will get a cell phone. My buddy taking a picture and sending it to his GF was pretty cool.
  • some of us were born to be dorks.

    Tell us something we didn't know.
  • Well, it's hard to make much out of a blurb pulled from an abstract of a foreign language journal but Monoamine Oxidase [wikipedia.org] is a chemical well known to be involved in neurobiological functions, famously, depression.

    The problem lies in the Monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors, drugs designed to block degradation of the enzyme. These drugs interact with many foods, including beer, so they are of little clinical utility to the affected slashdotter.

    It would have been nice to get a bit more detail. Much of the tim

  • and are more in need of stimulation from new things.

    So that's why she left me and the kids for that new guy. And to think, she blamed it on my need for new gadgets....

  • by Bullfish (858648) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:26AM (#15705172)
    This is a good thing and is part of all of our natures. Without it, we would never have left the caves, invented the spiky club, fire, beer or the refrigerator (in which you keep your beer).
  • by respyre (812609)
    Great, great. Now c'mon... make with a new article, already!
  • So life would be cheaper. However one shouldnt overdrinkdrink the antidote as the love of antiques is more expensive.

    Is there a word for people who like slightly used items?
  • For some reason I had always thought it was my age that made me like computers and technology, but I'm getting fairly old but the desire to buy gadgets and new technology isn't going away.

    I'm buying more and getting more than I was a kid mostly because of my greater income.

    However, my parents really weren't into gadgets that much so I don't know if this is passed on or just learned as a kid.

    However, most kids are pretty quick to learn computers so perhaps if you can the "neophilia" bug as a kid that your mi
  • If just one gen to flip, please flip my girlfriends bit. She has the burning desire to buy new clothes and shoes.

  • by GmAz (916505)
    Or is the fact that a lot of people put their wants before their needs. We live in a time where society puts the value of what they have, how much of it, and how new is it before everything else. Example. Have you ever looked at the people in the supermarkets that use food stamps. A lot of them, but not all, have their nails done, their hair professionaly styled, name brand clothing/atire, more makeup on their face than they really need, a brand new gas guzzling SUV every year or two, etc. Last time I
    • Re:Or... BS!!! (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Example. Have you ever looked at the people in the supermarkets that use food stamps. A lot of them, but not all, have their nails done, their hair professionaly styled, name brand clothing/atire, more makeup on their face than they really need, a brand new gas guzzling SUV every year or two, etc.

      Those people are frauds who are cheating the poor; they buy those stamps from poor people at half the face value. Poor people like beer and cigarrettes (and many are addicted), and that job at McDonald's just doesn
    • Example. Have you ever looked at the people in the supermarkets that use food stamps. A lot of them, but not all, have their nails done, their hair professionaly styled, name brand clothing/atire, more makeup on their face than they really need, a brand new gas guzzling SUV every year or two, etc

      Bit of a tangent, but the food stamp program starts to make more sense once you know that it's real purpose in 1939 wasn't so much "food for the poor", but "farm subsidy"-- Exhibit A: food stamps say across the to

  • by dbdweeb (598548) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:36AM (#15705255)
    This thread is old and boring now... I need a new, more interesting topic.
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:36AM (#15705257) Homepage
    They gave a new name to the "OOOH SHINEY!" syndrome that every geek has.

    I'm all for it as long as they come up with a disability program that helps us. You know, add's an additional $50,000.00 a year to your income for supporting the shiney habit or offering an insurance card that allows us to buy the items with a $20.00 co-pay to offset the costs of collecting new shiney objects with blinking lights.

    Although I can see it now... "Im sorry sir but you have already bought a HD-DVD player this month on your plan, you will have to wait until next month. you can buy a new CD changer or GPS though with your monthly allowance."

  • Does this mean I can get a doctor's note telling my boss to get me the latest and greatest LCD monitor?
  • by porkchop_d_clown (39923) <mwheinzNO@SPAMme.com> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:49AM (#15705354) Homepage
    this would be old news.

    I mean, "neophilia" has been in the jargon file [catb.org] since, what, 1973?
  • I always called myself an experience junkie. I get a total high from anything new, even if its bad. I.e. breaking my leg would actually be interesting to me as I'd never done it before. for about the first 2 or 3 days, then the novelty would wear off as it does with pretty much everything else.
  • It's not my fault! At last, vindication! "Honey, I HAD to buy that new digital camera. You understand." :)
  • Now you've really gone and done it. Now these 'neophiles' have a fucking EXCUSE for it. Do you guys have any idea what kind of dumbassery you have justified?

    On the other hand, maybe it's treatable now that we know what it is that causes it. I have a friend who could use some 'deprogramming' before he winds up going broke - again.
  • Software (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bcmm (768152) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:28AM (#15705693)
    I think I deal with this by getting new software all the time. It's a lot cheaper, especially on Linux :)
  • Saying a complex psychological behavior is simply a result of having "elevated levels of a brain chemical" is like saying your program has a bug because "it has too many 1s and not enough 0s".

    It's kinda true, but even more important is where those signals are present, what is detecting them, and how they got there.
  • I can't think of a condition that would more accurately decribe my need to constantly:

    1) have new challenges at my job
    2) travel to new places
    3) live in NYC where you're always meeting new people and going to new places
    4) have the latest gadgets ... it all makes sense now.

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