Tristan Harris shows that using your smart phone is as addictive as playing a slot machine.

How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind — from a Magician and Google ...

Magicians start by looking for blind spots, edges, vulnerabilities and limits of people’s perception, so they can influence what people do without them even realizing it. Once you know how to push people’s buttons, you can play them like a piano.

And this is exactly what product designers do to your mind. They play your psychological vulnerabilities (consciously and unconsciously) against you ...

Hijack #1: If You Control the Menu, You Control the Choices

Millions of us fiercely defend our right to make “free” choices, while we ignore how those choices are manipulated upstream by menus we didn’t choose in the first place.

This is exactly what magicians do. They give people the illusion of free choice while architecting the menu so that they win, no matter what you choose. I can’t emphasize enough how deep this insight is.

When people are given a menu of choices, they rarely ask:

  • “what’s not on the menu?”
  • “why am I being given these options and not others?”
  • “do I know the menu provider’s goals?”
  • “is this menu empowering for my original need, or are the choices actually a distraction?”

Hijack #2: Put a Slot Machine In a Billion Pockets

If you’re an app, how do you keep people hooked? Turn yourself into a slot machine.

The average person checks their phone 150 times a day.

.... the #1 psychological ingredient in slot machines: intermittent variable rewards.

If you want to maximize addictiveness, all tech designers need to do is link a user’s action (like pulling a lever) with a variable reward

Hijack #3: Fear of Missing Something Important (FOMSI)

Another way apps and websites hijack people’s minds is by inducing a “1% chance you could be missing something important.”

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Replies to This Discussion

Excellent stuff, Ruth, especially the parallel between design of tech interfaces and the "dirty business" stage magicians employ to make their tricks work.

CBS News 60 Minutes did a pretty comprehensive story on the issue of cell phone addiction a couple weeks ago.  Problem is, if you want to see it, you have to be subscribed to CBS News All Access, for which, I have no doubt, there is a charge associated.

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