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The Coolidge Effect

The Coolidge Effect

 

Have you ever heard the adage: for every beautiful women there is a guy tired of having sex with her?

The Coolidge Effect explains why:

The Coolidge Effect gets its name from the 30th US President Calvin Coolidge. Before I explain the concept, consider the following anecdote from which the concept derives:

A long time ago, President Coolidge and his wife were visiting a farm. Whilst the President went to check out other areas of the farm, the farmer showed the First Lady a rooster that he said was “copulating with hens all day long, every day, day after day.” The First Lady instructed the farmer to tell that to Mr Coolidge, which he did. On hearing this, the President stood there, thought for a moment and then asked, “with the same hen?” The farmer replied “Of course not, Sir.” The President replied, “Tell that to the First Lady.”

It is a witty anecdote, but it has also been backed up by science. The first experiments to demonstrate the Coolidge Effect were demonstrated with rats. A male rate would be dropped into a cage with a female rodent, and after a disposition of time, you would see a prolonged burst of copulation. However, a period of time after this burst, the male rate begins to lose interest in the female, and eventually ignores her.

However, this lack of interest in the female is not a result of exhaustion or decrease in well-being. Should the original female rodent be replaced by a new female rodent, then immediately the male rodent sexually perks up again and begins mating with the new female. Soon time passes, and the male begins to experience sexual withdraw and a lack of interest in the new female rodent.  However, should you remove this old rodent and replace it with a new female, the male gets sexually excited …. ad infinitum.

This behaviour, to varying degrees, has been noticed in all mammals, including humans.

What drives the Coolidge Effect mechanism? The central culprit is the neurochemical dopamine. Dopamine is commonly associated with the pleasure system of the brain, and the brain as a motivational reward mechanism seeks to experience as much dopamine as possible. So, we are motivated to seek pleasurable experiences.  Most pleasurable experiences, sex, delicious food, drugs, are addictive because they significantly increase dopamine levels within the brain.

However, repeated use of the same item can lower the experience of dopamine that one gains from the aforementioned item, which explains why the male rodent, over time, begins to lack sexual interest in the female rodent. Primarily, she was the object that substantially increased dopamine for him before it barely became worthwhile for the male rodent to engage in mating. The male rodent has the advantage of not having to think of concepts such as marriage, fidelity, guilt etc. to make him stay exclusive with the female rodent. However, once the old female rodent is replaced with the new female rodent, dopamine levels are spiked to the max.

 

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