Entrepreneurs and neuroscientists talked about how companies use knowledge about the brain to “hook” us to use the product. In an unprecedented burst of candor, Sean Parker, one of Facebook’s co-founders, admitted that social network was not created to unite us, but to distract us. “The question was how to get as much time and attention from users as possible,” he said in a speech in November.
To do this, the creators of Facebook took advantage of the weak point of the human psyche. Every time someone likes or comments on your post or photo, you get a small burst of dopamine. It turns out that Facebook is an empire built on the dopamine molecule.
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What dopamine does in the body
Dopamine is one of the twenty major neurotransmitters. These chemicals, like couriers, carry urgent messages between neurons and other cells in the body. Thanks to neurotransmitters, the heart continues to beat, and the lungs continue to breathe. Dopamine ensures that we drink water when we are thirsty and try to reproduce to pass on our genes.
In the 50s, dopamine was thought to be responsible for movement. Scientists came to this conclusion when they studied Parkinson’s disease. This condition’s symptoms include tremors (tremors in the limbs or trunk), slow movements, and muscle stiffness. And it is caused by insufficient production of dopamine.
But in the 80s, after the experiments of the neuroscientist Wolfram Schultz (Wolfram Schultz) with rats, the opinion of scientists changed. Schultz conducted several experiments. As soon as the rat bit the food that was offered to it, a large release of dopamine occurred in its brain. Learning is built on this process.
The brain anticipates a reward for an action. If we receive this reward over and over again, action becomes a habit.
These experiments have proven that dopamine is primarily involved in the reward system. It is associated with desires, ambition, addictions, and sex drive. It is not yet clear whether dopamine produces a pleasant sensation on its own, Schultz said. Nevertheless, it has a reputation for being a hormone of happiness.
Dopamine encourages us to take action to satisfy our needs and desires by letting us imagine how we would feel after we satisfy them.
How companies use dopamine to create addiction in users
Dopamine has become very popular and is often reported in the press. But there is a lot of talk about him in Silicon Valley. There, it is considered a secret ingredient that makes an app, game, or platform potentially profitable. Entrepreneur Ramsay Brown even founded a company that uses dopamine addiction in app development.
The system that Dopamine Labs uses is arbitrary. This method can be used with any habit-building app. For example, in a running app, it looks like this; the user receives a reward (a badge or rain of confetti) not after every run but in random order. It would seem that this should not motivate. But according to Brown, users of this app started running, on average, 30% more often.
However, not everyone shares this enthusiasm. New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote: “Companies understand what triggers the release of dopamine in the brain and are adding techniques to their products that attract users.” This explains the success of Facebook.
We feel an irresistible urge to visit the site, because we do not know when the notification will come, and with it – the release of dopamine.
The ability of technology to influence our behavior in this way is just beginning to be studied. However, the effectiveness of dopamine’ sin-forming habits is already familiar to anyone addicted to smoking and drugs. Any narcotic substance affects the reward system, provoking dopamine production in much larger quantities than usual. And the more often a person takes drugs, the more difficult it is for him to stop.
There are other negative consequences, as well. For example, patients with Parkinson’s disease take medications that fill the brain with dopamine. At the same time, almost 10% of patients become addicted to gambling.
Brown and his colleagues at Dopamine Labs know they are playing with fire. They have developed an ethical framework for themselves to decide which companies to partner with. “We talk to them, figure out what they are creating and why,” explains Brown.
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“I don’t know if such applications can be addictive,” says Professor Schultz. The very idea that we can change another person’s behavior not with the help of drugs but simply by placing him in a certain situation causes a lot of controversies.
We tell people how they should behave, which is risky. If some system trains the brain to produce dopamine after certain actions, a situation may arise when a person cannot get out of the control of this system. I am not suggesting that the companies that develop such services are doing anything wrong. Maybe they even help. But I would be careful. “
However, Brown sees the use of dopamine systems as a natural pathway for human brain development. In his opinion, dopamine will help us consciously form healthy habits. “We can bridge the chasm between aspiration and action and create systems that help people grow,” he says.
Adapted and translated by Wiki Avenue Staff
Sources: Life hacker