why new things make us feel good

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Novelty and the brain

Why do we find new songs interesting and old ones boring?
Why do we like to travel to new places?
Why do we enjoy buying new things?

Novelty has always been known to create more excitement and happiness for the brain but what's the explanation?
In my previous article about predictable nice guys i explained how the brain ignores repetitive patterns and only pays attention to new stuff. This is one reason why predictable nice guys usually lose to mysterious and unpredictable bad boys. (see How to make someone fall in love with you)

Each human being has certain kind of needs. Whether he knows about them or not his subconscious mind will be on constant search for methods to satisfy those needs. But because each thing a person sees gets stored in his memory the mind can easily predict that more of the same boring stuff won't help satisfying those important needs.

In other words the brain gets excited by novel stuff because it believes that it might find new ways to satisfy it's important unmet needs. Reward anticipation is the term word here.

Novelty and associations

Our brains work by creating associations. What comes to your mind when i say Italy?

If you are Italian then you would think of home.
If you are European you will think of something else.
While if you are from America then you will think of a totally different thing.

The reason different people think of different things when they encounter the same things is because of the different associations their brains form.

Many of the things you already know are already associated with negative emotions and thoughts. Now here comes the beauty of novelty. The brain suddenly finds something that isn't associated with any negative stuff yet.

In my article Why we get bored of old songs i explained how negative associations form over time and make old songs sound boring. Compare this to a novel thing that could turn out to be very positive. At least that's how the human brain thinks.

Novelty and Clutter

The brain is energy intensive and because of that it does its best to use energy properly. For that reason any irrelevant or repetitive data must be filtered not to overwhelm the brain. This is why you stop smelling your perfume few moments after you put it on.

The smell is still there but now your brain considers the smell irrelevant data and so it ignores it.
Now what about novel stuff?
Or things you haven't seen before?

In such a case the brain quickly notices those things and bring them to your attention so that you can evaluate them for possible usefulness. If they were found useless they would be marked as boring while if they proved useful then you would get your reward.

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