Despite an upcoming deadline – not to mention my skepticism (how cute could they be?) – I clicked on the story. I’m only human after all. But this failure of self-regulation cost me at least half an hour of good working time – as did other clickbait headlines, bizarre pictures in my Twitter feed or arguments on Facebook.
The insidious, distracting nonsense of the internet has seemingly become inevitable. Call us from our pockets, lurk behind work documents, it’s just a click away. Studies have shown that we spend an average of five and a half hours every day using digital media and looking at our phone 221 times.
The developers of websites and phone apps are now exploiting human behavioral tendencies and designing their products and websites in such a way that they attract – and keep – our eyes. Michael Schulson writes for Aeon and points out:
Developers have pinned their future on methods of cultivating habits in users in order to attract as much attention as possible.
Given the omnipresence of the Internet and its diverse insignia, is it even possible to curb our growing Internet consumption, which is often at the expense of work, family or relationships?
Psychological research on persuasion and self-control suggests some possible strategies.
Tricks for clicks
It is important to know some of the tricks internet writers and web developers use to get our attention.
The strange number 22 in the heading is an example of the “pique” technique. Lists are usually round numbers (think Letterman’s top 10 lists or the Fortune 500). Unusual numbers grab our attention because they break this pattern. In a classic study, social psychologist Anthony Pratkanis and colleagues found that passers-by with a beggar rage demanding $ 0.37 are almost 60 percent more likely to give money than those who ask for a quarter.
Study participants also asked more questions of the beggars who asked for strange amounts compared to those who begged for a quarter. The same thing happened when I saw the headline. In this case, the skepticism that led me to ask “How cute could you be?” backfire: it made me more likely to click the link.
An alert (like asking for $ 0.37 or going to Photo # 11) causes us to pause in everything we do and focus on the puzzle again. Questions demand answers. This tendency has been called the rhetorical question effect by psychologists, or the tendency that rhetorical questions cause us to delve deeper into a topic.
These tricks take advantage of built-in qualities of our minds that otherwise serve us well. It is clearly an advantage that unexpected stimuli attract our attention and make us look for explanations: they can save us from being hit by a car or alert us to sudden and suspicious changes in the balance in our bank account .
So there is no point in turning off this type of vigilance system or teaching ourselves to ignore it when it sets off an alarm.
We tie ourselves to the mast
Content on the net should not only attract our attention; Some of it has been specially designed so that we keep coming back to find out more: notifications when someone replies to a post, or rankings based on up votes. These cues trigger the reward system in our brain because they are associated with the powerful amplifier of social recognition.
Unsurprisingly, internet use is often phrased in the language of addiction. Psychologists have even identified problematic internet use as a growing problem.
So what can we do?
Like Odysseus’ strategy of resisting the temptation of the sirens, perhaps the best trick is to commit to a different course of action beforehand – by force if necessary.
Unsurprisingly, internet use is often phrased in the language of addiction.
Odysseus let his men tie him to the mast of their ship until they were out of reach of the sirens. This is an example of precommitment, a strategy of self-control that involves imposing a condition in advance on some aspect of your behavior. For example, an MIT study found that paid proofreaders made fewer mistakes and got their work done sooner when they put their deadlines on for a longer period (e.g. to work but only had a deadline at the end of a month.
The modern equivalent of what Odysseus did is figuratively tying himself to the mast with technology. Software packages such as Cold Turkey or the appropriately named SelfControl enable you to block yourself from certain websites or to log into your e-mail account for a set period of time.
Research supports the reasoning behind these programs: The idea that we often know what is best for our future selves – at least when it comes to getting work done and staying free from distraction.
Coming out with your commitment
If you really need to win a chicken, the best thing to do is accelerate to top speed, remove the steering wheel and brakes from your car, and toss them out the window – all in view of your opponent.
In a less dramatic way, predictions can be much more effective when made public. Researchers have found that people who publicly commit to a desired course of action like recycling or socializing are more likely to pull through than people who keep their intentions private. We are deeply social beings with a fundamental need for belonging, and publicly declaring a plan puts our reputations at risk. Between social pressures to live up to expectations and the internal sanctions we impose, public engagement can be a powerful two-pronged attack on failure of self-regulation.
More and more scientists studying self-regulation see tools like pre-commitment and website blocking software not as “hacks” bypassing the system, but as integral pieces of the self-regulation puzzle.
For example, a recent study tracked the day-to-day life of a large sample of people from moment to moment, asking them questions about their goals, temptations, and abilities to withstand them.
Contrary to expectations, people who were generally good at self-control (as measured by a reliable questionnaire) were not the best at resisting temptation when temptation appeared. In fact, they were generally pretty bad at it.
The key is that self-control and resisting temptation are not the same thing. Odysseus had one thing, but not the other.
Instead, good self-control was characterized by the ability to avoid temptation in the first place. We often think of self-control as the ability to fight our way through temptation, but studies like this show that self-control can also be as simple as planning ahead to avoid these pitfalls.
The next time you need something done, make a pre-commitment to avoid the internet altogether. Like Odysseus, remember that if you are directly exposed to temptation, the battle may be lost.
(This article is syndicated from AP from The Conversation)
Tech Neck, Text Claw & Smartphone Pinky: How Gadget Addiction Causes Deformities
Technology: blessing or curse
Technology has been a blessing to us, but letting it take our lives away can be quite a challenge.
Excessive smartphone usage, WiFi signal, and huge devices cause more harm than good.
The advancement of technology and our addiction to it, in turn, lead to several changes in our bodies.
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