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One of my early blog posts was about dopamine, and since then our smartphones have become even more capable of triggering a “dopamine loop.” So I thought I would re-visit the topic. Especially because I just did an animated video on the topic for the Brain Signal youtube channel:
It’s all about dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that is found all through our body. In our brains dopamine is involved in a lot of our behavior, including thinking, moving, sleeping, mood, attention, motivation, seeking and reward.
Dopamine causes us to want, desire, seek out, and search. Researchers used to think that dopamine was the “pleasure” chemical. But Kent Berridge’s work at the University of Michigan distinguishes between dopamine, the “wanting” system, and the opioid system as the “liking” system. The wanting system propels us to action and the liking system makes us feel satisfied, so we pause our seeking. The wanting system is stronger than the liking system. We seek more than we are satisfied.
Dopamine induces a loop — it starts us seeking, then we get rewarded for the seeking which makes us seek more. Which is what I think happens when we respond to texts, or emails. The result is that we can’t stop looking at email, texting, or checking our cell phones to see if we have a message or a new text.
The theoroy of classical conditioning in psychology tells us that we can become conditioned to respond to auditory or visual cues that a reward has, or is going to, arrive. Our smartphones beep and flash and show little icons when we have messages or texts, all adding to the addictive effect. Between classical conditioning and dopamine it can feel like you are addicted!
What do you think? Do you have a hard time not checking your phone when you hear that special tone?
When people interact with each other they follow rules and guidelines for social interaction. Here’s an example: Let’s say I go to a café and I see you sitting by the window. We know each other, and so I come up to you and say, “Hi Richard, how are you doing today?” I expect you to interact with me, and I expect that interaction to follow a certain protocol. I expect you to look at me, in fact to look me in the eye. If our previous interactions have been positive, then I expect you to smile a little bit. Next, you are supposed to respond to me by saying something like, “I’m fine. I’m sitting outside here to enjoy the beautiful weather.” Where the conversation goes next depends on how well we know each other. If we are just casual acquaintances we might wind down the conversation, “Well, enjoy it while you can, bye!” If we are close friends, then I might pull up a chair and engage in a longer conversation.
We have expectations of how the interaction will go — and if either of us violates the expectations, then we will get uncomfortable. For example, what if I start the conversation as above, with “Hi Richard, how are you doing today?” but you don’t respond. What if you ignore me? Or what if you won’t look at me? What if you say back, “My sister never liked the color blue”, and stare into space. Or perhaps you give me more personal information than our relationship warrants. Any of these scenarios would make me uncomfortable. I would probably try to end the conversation as soon as possible, and likely avoid interacting with you next time the opportunity arises.
Online interactions follow the same social rules — When people go to a website or use an online application, they have assumptions about how the website will respond to them and what the interaction will be like. And many of these expectations mirror the expectations that they have for person-to-person interactions. If the website is not responsive or takes too long to load, it is like talking to a person who is not looking at you, or is ignoring you. If the website asks for personal information too soon in the flow of the interaction, that is like the other person getting too personal. If the website does not save your information from session to session, that is like the other person not recognizing you or remembering that you have already established a relationship.
There are cultural expectations too — Different cultures have different expectations of social rules and interactions. In the US when I meet someone new I put out my hand for a handshake, but in other cultures a handshake would not be the normal social rule for meeting a new person. In the US it’s common to ask someone new that you meet “What do you do”, but in some cultures that would seem too personal. Similarly, if a website is not modified to meet the expectations of a particular culture (called localization of the website), then it will miss the mark because it will violate social rules of the target culture.
A new definition of social media? — Some people are saying that “social media” has reached its peak and is dying. But maybe the definition just needs to get broader. Is social media just about how to connect people together online? How to use online networking as a way to promote brands or products or services? Aren’t all online interactions really social interactions?If people expect their online interactions to follow the rules of social interactions, then isn’t something as simple as showing up at the home page of a website actually a social interaction. Is filling out a form at a government website to renew your automobile registration a social interaction?
What do you think? Should web designers think about the interactions that they are building as social interactions? Should they consider how to mirror person-to-person interaction? Would they design different interactions if they were thinking this way? Is this a new definition of “social media”?
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I’ve been blogging for 1.5 years, although I didn’t really get rolling till about 6 months ago. This was about the time I found Yaro Starak’s wonderful Blog Mastermind training (there’s a link (affiliate) to Yaro and the course in the right sidebar).
Bloggers are an experimental and very social group — One of the things I’ve been amazed at in the last few months as I’ve been taking Yaro’s course is how inventive, experimental, and social bloggers are.
Show the Luv — One of the latest experiments is called Comment Luv. Have you noticed the logo at the bottom of my blogs underneath the comments section? I’m trying out CommentLuv. If you are a blogger yourself, you leave a comment at my blog, and check the CommentLuv box, then CommentLuv will go out to your blog and automatically pull in a link to your latest blog entry and post the link in your comment. The idea is that people will be more motivated to leave a comment at a blog if they know that the link will be shown automatically (most bloggers really want people to come read what they write).
My experiment — So I’m trying it out. Let’s see if my comments increase. Let’s see if these types of incentives work. Are you going to leave a comment?
If you engage in social media are you being social? You email, you text, you twitter, you leave voicemails for people, so you are plugged in, right? Well, actually not. In all of these means of communication you are not actually physically interacting with another person. True social bonding requires a physical reaction to the presence of other people. Do you tend to work alone a lot? At your desk on your computer? Then maybe you aren’t being as social as you think. And this lack of physical contact may actually affect the quality of the work that you and your team does.
The Neuro Science of Social Bonding — People are social animals. In order to work together they have to have social interactions. There are complicated hormonal and chemical changes that occur in your brain and throughout your body when you bond with others. In this post I’ll focus on just one mechanism of social bonding — laughter.
Research on Laughter —Considering how universal laughter is and how much of it we do, there is, relatively, not a lot of research on laughter. One of the main researchers is Robert Provine from University of Maryland. Here is a summary of some of the research he has done… some of these findings may surprise you: Continue reading “100 Things You Should Know About People: #15 — If You Use Social Media Without Laughter You Aren't Being Social”