Hunger, thirst, loneliness and ambition all play a part in determining how much we value food, water, social interaction and our performance outcomes. Pulses of the neurotransmitter dopamine are released into the brain at moments of reward, but it remains unclear how these dopamine signals change when an individual’s priorities shift. In this week’s publication, Jesse Goldberg and colleagues explore the changes in dopamine signals in male zebra finches (depicted on the cover), as they engage in activities such as drinking, song evaluation and courting. The researchers found that dopamine responses are dynamically adjusted based on the birds’ current priorities. For instance, when focused on courting a female, their desire for water decreased, and the dopamine response to both water and song performance diminished. Instead, the male’s dopamine signals were driven by social feedback from the female. Importantly, female-driven dopamine release was observed specifically in a part of the male brain dedicated to social communication, revealing a new specificity and prioritization of social reward signals during courtship.