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Sensation Seeking. The search for the perfect high. Sky diving. Friend wanted to do something unique for her 50 th birthday. Her kids suggested skydiving. Tandem dive. Great experience even with a broken ankle. Roller coasters. Some folks love them. Go on coasters in the dark.

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Sensation seeking l.jpg

Sensation Seeking

The search for the perfect high.


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Sky diving

  • Friend wanted to do something unique for her 50th birthday.

  • Her kids suggested skydiving.

  • Tandem dive.

  • Great experience even with a broken ankle.


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Roller coasters

  • Some folks love them.

  • Go on coasters in the dark.

  • Loosen seatbelts.

  • Travel around the country.

  • Exciting and pleasurable.

  • For others, it’s a near death experience.


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Extreme Sports

  • Thrill seekers.

  • Natural highs.

  • Action gamblers.

  • Speed freaks.

  • What do they have in common?

  • Rewarding pathways in the brain.


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Hang gliding

  • Sport most likely to result in death.

  • Thrill seeking appears irrational.

  • Take unreasonable risks.

  • Trigger fight or flight response.

  • Adrenalin surge.

  • Stress reaction.

  • Why take the risk?


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Thrill seekers report

  • Psychological high.

  • Sense of mastery.

  • Have developed skills.

  • Know how to use gear.

  • Coping skills.

  • Able to handle situation.



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Developing skill

  • First timers report intense fear.

  • With practice, fear disappears.

  • Psychological high remains.

  • Self-satisfaction associated with highly developed coping skill.

  • Learn how to control fear.


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Self-efficacy

  • Belief in your abilities.

  • Mobilize your energy.

  • Physical and psychological resources.

  • Know the appropriate action to take.

  • Emergency responders.

  • Handle the fear.


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Outcome efficacy

  • Belief that you will experience satisfaction from reaching goal.

  • Mastery in the past.

  • Sense of accomplishment.

  • Worth taking the risk.

  • Joy of success.


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People who avoid risks.

  • Not because they experience fear.

  • Not close enough to experience fear.

  • Haven’t even approached the threat.

  • In reality, fear they won’t be able to cope with the situation.

  • Expectation of fear and failure.


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Fear of public speaking

  • Work of Bandura.

  • Greatest source of threat is our inability to deal with nagging doubts about our performance.

  • Should I take public speaking course?

  • Will I freeze?

  • What will people think?

  • Never sign up.


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Negative thoughts

  • Negative thoughts are powerful un-motivating force.

  • Negative thoughts create anxiety.

  • Anxiety makes us apprehensive.

  • Avoid situation.


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Antidote for negative thoughts.

  • Self-efficacy best prevention against negative thoughts.

  • Mastery in risky situations.

  • Rope courses.

  • Bob Marsh: “push the envelope of comfort.”


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Rope courses

  • Safe way to develop mastery.

  • Overcome fears.

  • Develop trust in community.

  • Improve self-image.

  • Used extensively in drug rehab with adolescents.

  • Team building for many different groups.


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Marvin Zuckerman

  • Sensation seekers.

  • Some people need a higher level of stimulation to maintain mood.

  • Simulation falls  mood slumps.

  • Push to keep stimulation levels as high as possible.


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Sensory deprivation

  • Zuckerman was grad student in these studies.

  • Interested in subjects who hated deprivation.

  • Couldn’t tolerate low levels of stimulation.

  • Wanted new experiences.


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Sensation Seeking Scale

  • Developed new scale: SSS.

  • Zuckerman on sensation seeking:

  • “a trait defined by the need for varied, novel and complex sensations and experiences.

  • And the willingness to take physical and social risks for the sake of such experiences.”


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SSS components

  • 1) Thrill and adventure seeking. (action

    gamblers).

  • 2) Seek experiences outside the conventional lifestyle (travel, friends, art).

  • 3) Disinhibition: release of inhibitions, escape the pressures of daily life. (escape gamblers).

  • 4) Low tolerance for boredom, repetition and sameness.


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SSS predictor of addiction

  • Sensation seeking as personality trait.

  • Correlated with alcoholism.

  • Gambling.

  • Perhaps common in all addictions.


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Male-limited alcoholism

  • Males particularly susceptible

  • Male limited.

  • More severe, early onset.

  • Many negative consequences.

  • Trouble with law, at school, on job.

  • Environment plays less of a role but can lessen the severity.


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Brain response to novelty

  • Brain waves to novel stimuli.

  • P3 waves.

  • Less reaction in alcoholics.

  • Need more stimulation?


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Psychological characteristics

  • Related to biology?

  • Reward seeking.

  • Impulsive.

  • Easily bored.

  • Risk takers

  • Gregarious

  • Push the limits

  • Act out


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Brain chemistry differences

  • Naturally higher levels of some mood chemicals.

  • Brain in high gear.

  • In order to feel high, have to push the brain beyond normal level of activity.

  • Greater sensation to get reward.

  • Potential for addiction.


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Important for prevention

  • Gambling as example.

  • Primary: before start gambling. Prevent early exposure.

  • Secondary: intervene in early stages. Provide alternatives.

  • Tertiary: treatment.

    Understand the role of sensation seeking to avoid switching addictions.


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