What Is Satisfaction?
What is satisfaction? Satisfaction is a memory store of “somatic markers” - the hierarchically ranked strengths of emotions experienced by people about events in their lives. Satisfaction belongs to the category of positive markers. Comparison of markers on a satisfaction scale, beneath conscious levels, enables the brain to make swift decisions about the uncertain choices it faces. This process forms a small part of the numerous complex control mechanisms, which manage the advance, withdraw, or consume choices made by animals. Such action choices enabled them to forage, reproduce, protect offspring, maintain cooperative alliances, and avoid physical dangers.
Nature evolved complex techniques to enable animals to make survival decisions. As Comsides and Tooby wrote, "When a tiger bounds towards you, what should your response be? Should you file your toenails? Do a cartwheel? Sing a song? Is this the moment to run an uncountable number of randomly generated response possibilities through the decision rule?" Levels of satisfaction provide one component of that intuitive microsecond decision making system.
- Evolution developed a range of
emotions, including disappointment, to finely grade and regulate the
inner directed behavior of animals.
- The VMPFC is a region, which finely
judges possibilities, when an individual is faced with a need to make
decisions about an uncertain future.
- The Iowa Gambling Task experiments
demonstrated the impact of lesions int the VMPFC.
- Since levels of satisfaction determine
customer responses, industries have developed elaborate ways of
- Since disappointments lead to loss of
customers, expectations are managed to lead to "customer
- In the justice system, society obtains
satisfaction by punishing unsocial behavior.
- Gratitude to life depends on an
individual's ability to have high satisfaction levels.
What Is Satisfaction –
Complex Control Systems
motor controls responded to touch stimuli to intelligently contract
and expand the body and tentacles to move about and swallow or expel
food particles for the primitive hydra. Later, odor interpretations (the earliest nose brain)
from the olfactory system increased the ability of reptiles to detect predators
and to consume or avoid food. The amygdala increased discrimination
by becoming sensitive to the potential for pain or conflict.
insular cortex added the mirror neuron ability to sense the emotions
of others in the herd to add a complex range of control
emotions to manage social relationships. These included “love and
hate, gratitude and resentment, self-confidence and embarrassment,
trust and distrust, empathy and contempt, approval and disdain, pride
and humiliation." These emotions generate changes in the body, called
somatic or body states, including variations in facial expressions,
postures, hormones, heart rates, and muscle contractions. The
nervous system records these parameters in the context of trillions
According to Comsides and Tooby, goals or other
kinds of motivational and reward systems operated by hierarchically
ranking, or calibrating the related patterns of emotions. This view
is supported by the Somatic Marker Hypothesis (SMH), proposed by
Antonio Damasio. At the bottom level of emotional responses to
situations, Steven Shabel reports the disappointment emotion,
signaled by the simultaneous release of two neurotransmitters,
glutamate and GABA, in a region of the brain called the habenula.
When more glutamate is released relative to GABA, the more intense
are the disappointment signals, which spread in the system.
Satisfaction relates to positive emotional signals.
Is Satisfaction – Calibrated Controls
lead to greater satisfaction and negative emotions lead to
dissatisfaction. Nature stores the strength of the emotion as a
memory, which is unconsciously recalled when making decisions.
Those, who practice mindfulness meditation are conscious that at the
end of a meal, a holiday, or a movie, a distinct thought arises that
the experience was nice, great, or fantastic. Such markers
differentiate between subtle choices in the fields of politics,
family life, recreational and career choices.
According to Damasio,
a region of the brain, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC)
recognizes the emotional context of experienced events to send
somatic markers, simulated body signals, which “bias the thoughts
and decisions of individuals.” Just as the amygdala
recorded the context of pain or conflict incidents, SMH suggests that
“somatic markers” may provide “variable values” to measure
the benefits of complex and uncertain choices.
The VMPFC evaluates
past emotional experiences to trigger secondary inducers, (the as if
body loop), which modify more complex behavior. Damage to the VMPFC
is known to cause an inability to learn from socially relevant
emotional experiences. Even such somatic markers as skin
conductance responses are reduced after they receive a reward or
punishment. The SMH view is supported by results from the Iowa
Gambling Task experiments, which again study the effect of negative
emotions on the selection process.
What Is Satisfaction –
Iowa Gambling Task Experiments
Iowa Gambling Task experiments compared the performance of healthy
people with that of patients with damage to the VMPFC. These tests
evaluated the ability of people to judge prospective rewards and
punishments, while choosing cards from four prearranged decks.
the task, participants are rewarded for selecting cards from high
profit/high penalty decks, or low profit/low penalty decks. While
rewards are smaller for the small reward/penalty decks, the penalties
are also smaller. The most profitable strategy is to limit choices to
the small reward/penalty decks. Over time, (usually within the first
40 trials), healthy participants learn to instinctively adopt the
beneficial low reward/penalty deck strategy.
participants with lesions in VMPFC, continue to choose from the high
reward/penalty deck, even though they face steady losses. At the same
time, the comprehension of language, attention, and working memory of
such patients were generally intact and they could readily solve
logical problems. SMH suggests that this region is pivotal to
emotional learning - in integrating the emotional memory of
individual gains and losses over time into a rational behavior
strategy. Levels of satisfaction demarcate the strengths of positive
What Is Satisfaction – Measurements Of
use of customer satisfaction surveys in business and government
indicate the universal reliability of continuously graded levels of
satisfaction and dissatisfaction stored permanently as emotional
memories. Significant choices of the general population include the
selection of careers, products for use, foods for consumption and
even for selection of elected representatives.
Since such choices
have vast economic value, psychologists and businesses have
endeavored to measure satisfaction levels. It is a major industry
and such measurements are clear pointers to purchase, political and
social decisions. The surveys predict the behaviors of millions of
people. Such surveys have developed questions, which measure
satisfaction with a reasonable level of accuracy. They grade the
levels of satisfaction concerning the goods and services people
The highest level of satisfaction is indicated by the
willingness of people to risk their own reputation by recommending
the product or service. Repeat purchases also indicate higher levels
of satisfaction. Surveys usually measure the perceived levels of
quality, service and value on a scale of 1 to 10. Above 9, the
customer is favorably inclined and is unlikely to shop around. 6 to
8 may indicate openness to alternatives and scores below 5 indicate
What Is Satisfaction –
Manipulating Satisfaction Levels
levels of satisfaction are dependent on expectations, the providers
of goods and services try to manage expectation. Politicians
exaggerate the problems faced by them to lower the expectations of
their constituents. Automobile manufacturers improve fits and
finishes to add satisfaction levels through “customer delight.”
Hotels focus on interior designs with the same objective. Authors of
novels add intimate details of the lives and surroundings of their
characters to increase the involvement of their readers and leave
behind a satisfied feeling. Even swift and effective responses to
complaints increase levels of satisfaction.
satisfaction, pessimists expect to be dissatisfied. Murphy's Law “If
anything can go wrong, it will” is the refrain of the pessimists.
They focus on the things that can go wrong. A pessimist can change
his levels of satisfaction by changing his perspective. Billions of
things do not go wrong in life. Myriad neurons in his nervous
system, the complex circuits of his monitor and computer, the
worldwide circuits of the internet, power stations and distribution
systems work with incredible precision for him to watch a video. So,
regardless of whether many, or a few things do go wrong, the world
carries on. A pessimist's level of satisfaction with life will
increase, when he identifies all the things that keep going right in
his life. Changing the perspectives of his inner wisdom can lead to
increased satisfaction levels and optimism.
Satisfaction – The Demands Of Justice
Evolution developed specific patterns
of behavior to enable animals to live together in herds. Unsocial
behavior caused pain to the victims, which was emotionally shared by
members of the herd. Harmful actions invite retribution,
discouraging unsocial behavior. Invariably there is a time lag
between a negative action and the infliction of punishment. Unjust
actions generate pain for the victim and, through empathy, for the
whole herd. This pain persists in the minds of the herd and
subsides only when punishments of equal value are delivered to the
A sense of satisfaction follows when the pain of
injustice is removed. In religions, an act of repentance grants
relief to the pain of guilt felt by a “sinner” resulting in a
sense of satisfaction. Satisfaction is also felt by a victim, when a
compensation has been given for any pain or inconvenience caused.
This sense of satisfaction is more a sense of relief from pain rather
than joy in the infliction of punishment. Joy in the infliction of
punishment is not the general emotion of the group, but that of its
less balanced members. In all cases, the level of satisfaction
acts as a measure, which decides the future courses of action of the
Is Satisfaction – Experiencing Gratitude
The level of satisfaction with life is
a neural record, which influences an individual's attitude to life.
It decides his sense of gratitude and well being. Gratitude flows
from the unconscious judgment that life is good. Science discovered
that, when you experience the emotion, you will have a sense of
well-being. Your health will be better and you will have a more
cheerful attitude to life. People, who experience gratitude, sleep
better and have more positive thoughts. They face problems well and
are more in control of their lives. They cope better with transitions
in life. Experiencing gratitude is a true indication of coping well
as a person's level of satisfaction increases from despair to a sense
of awe at the wonder of life. The devout feel grateful that they are part of a grand design and are showered with blessings, in spite
of being unworthy sinners. But, the skeptics are not so fortunate.
They feel despair, when they fail to comprehend an incessant need for
misfortunes to meet a grand eternal purpose.
But, the despair of
the skeptic can change when he lowers his levels of expectations. He
has not done anything to deserve to be born. Life has given him the
opportunity to live calmly and joyfully. He does not owe anyone a
debt for this opportunity. Gratitude is naturally triggered, when
you receive an undeserved benefit. A change in expectations can lead
to a sense of gratitude by perceiving high levels of achieved satisfaction.
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