4 Practical Neurotransmitters in Gamification: No.1, Serotonin

How Social Status Affects Your Brain

Posted by Ali Akhtari on 2018 Oct 26

When I was at elementary school, I wrote an essay about life. And my teacher and classmates admired my work so much. I was super happy! And I was like "Again! Again! I have to do it again"! I fell in love with writing from that day on. All of us have had similar experiences. Perhaps with different activities like playing football, singing, or telling a dirty joke. However, all of us felt that rush when others admire us. Humans strive for admiration, respect, and sometimes, domination. And this urge helps us to survive.


Many animals use serotonin to survive. When two monkeys are fighting each other to become the dominant monkey, the serotonin is controlling them. Being at the top of the herd's hierarchy means security and more reproduction opportunities. If you were a dominant mammal, you could eat the best part of the food (means more vitamins and nutrients) and have sex with other dominant mammals—which increases the likelihood of your children's domination. Also, when the hard times come, you would be more secure than the others. The first victims of famine are submissive mammals. So, it's normal that mammals brain tell them to fight for the respect, admiration, and social status. And that respect may come from a super-sport car or a luxury house. Keep in mind that serotonin has many other functions such as stimulating nausea.


Serotonin makes you happy. Each time you get respect or admiration, your brain gives you a joyful reward to motivate you to seek more recognition. You also feel bad when you are submissive. Many people have experienced that feeling in the high school reunions when you think that the others are so much better than you and you are a loser. Remember that winning and losing are relative. Even if you are a millionaire CEO or a celebrity, you could still feel like a failure. Serotonin also makes you calmer, more focused, and less anxious. A 2007 study found that people with depression often have low levels of serotonin. Serotonin deficiency has also been linked to anxiety and insomnia (read more).

Serotonin Example: Fortnite

Fortnite is an excellent example of a game that triggers chemicals in our brain. Dopamine besides, it delicately triggers serotonin. When you fight with the other players to become the most dominant player—or even to humiliate your enemies—your brain discharges a lot of serotonin. The mechanics of the game is so much similar to the fight of the mammals for dominance. 100 players fight with each other to become the dominant player.

Gamification Techniques That Trigger Serotonin

gamification examples