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Video: Man and great white shark compete for dinner

Want a dopamine hit from a safe distance? Check out these guys and a great white shark go for the same catch

A view from a boat with a shark in the ocean on the side.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Everyone wants to catch something to brag about when they go out fishing. Most would prefer not to battle a larger prey for that catch, but how about having to fight sharks for your day’s work? Well, a group of guys got up close and personal with a great white shark while trying to snag a tuna for their meal. See if you would have stayed as calm in the same situation.

Now, these guys were doing the thing on purpose, so keep that in mind. They’re all researchers who were out on the ocean specifically to get footage of great white sharks for their work. But, in this moment, they were just hoping to catch some tuna for dinner.At first, it looks like these guys are out having a good time. Things quickly turn, and we see the shark surfacing to capture what they wanted to eat that day. (Not surprisingly, this competition for dinner wasn’t much of one — of course the shark won.)


Dopamine, Surprise & “The One That Got Away” Being in pursuit of something and especially, being right on the cusp of obtaining a reward is a very strong stimulus for dopamine release in the brain. But perhaps the greatest stimulus for dopamine release is when that is followed by a positive surprise. The name for it is “reward prediction error.” When we anticipate a reward, and it is not obtained or is smaller than what we expected, our baseline level of dopamine drops below what it was prior to the entire pursuit. Eventually, it returns to normal. But we learn something about the value of the pursuit that preceded that lower reward from the dopamine changes (aka dynamics). This video was shot during my lab’s expedition with Michael Muller to collect footage of great white sharks for a fear/anxiety VR stimulus at Stanford School of Medicine. We wanted tuna for our dinner and had one on the line… we were expecting a (meal) reward. A local great white reminded us that, when they are around, humans eat last. However, the reward of seeing it breach was greater than the meal we would’ve had. I’ll also never forget that incident because when we get a big and unexpected dopamine release, it leaves an indelible mark on our memory. You can start to see why dopamine is so fundamental to the evolution of every species. **It’s the chemical currency that tells us about the value of our experiences and efforts**. A recent episode of the Huberman Lab podcast is all about dopamine, “reward prediction error,” and the many important roles dopamine plays in motivation, drive and sense of reward. It also covers how to overcome procrastination by leveraging dopamine dynamics. hubermanlab andrewhuberman dopamine shark sharkbait greatwhite greatwhiteshark science

♬ original sound – Andrew Huberman

The focus for us was on the two guys in the front. The one holding the line is the bravest person alive. Not only does he not even jump, but he doesn’t get pulled into the water. The more amazing thing is that he keeps his grip on the line the whole time. We would have dropped that thing and jumped back in the boat. Or probably been pulled in for dessert.

But it’s also the guy right behind him that you need to keep your eye on. There’s a split second where it almost looks like he’s about to push the front guy right into the water. He had us holding our breath for sure. (In reality, it does look like he was trying to brace his brave friend.)

A view of fishing rods cast over the front of a boat into the ocean.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

These people weren’t out for fun or to try to get views. (Well, maybe to try to get a few views.) But the encounter makes a point about dopamine. That’s the adrenaline rush you get when you do something that makes you feel good. A little scared, maybe, but the end result is that good, high feeling.

That person out front got his in, in those seconds of witnessing that shark rip the catch off the line. All the guys on the front were gifted a little extra rush — along with an experience they won’t forget any time soon.

Since everyone survived in one piece, the reward this group shared will always be worth more than the meal they were trying to catch that day. How would a regular fishing trip to land a tuna for dinner morphing into a one-on-one experience with a great white shark affect you? It would leave you with a story to tell into old age where you would be known as ‘that shark guy’.

We aren’t saying to dangle yourself in front of sharks to get that same thrill. But you want to put yourself in situations that give you a great reward, all the same. (We’re sure there’s a Spiderman reference in there somewhere.) Without putting yourself in too much danger, find a way to give yourself that dopamine rush and live a little. (Great white sharks are optional.)

Dannielle Beardsley
Dannielle has written for various websites, online magazines, and blogs. She loves everything celebrity and her favorite…
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