Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Unpredictable Rewards: Twitter's "Activity" Stream And Our Dwindling Attention Reservoir

It might seem like splitting hairs to term one use of Twitter distracting, as if other forms were obviously productive and always informative. But Twitter--and Facebook, and Google+--give back what you put into them. And whether you find the recurring distractions of social networks helpful at all depends on what your goal is. Eyal Ophir, primary researcher at the Stanford Multitasking study, believes ticker-style updates are effective in a way familiar to researchers of operant conditioning. "Unpredictable rewards keep us guessing, so we'll keep checking long after we're no longer getting rewarded, because 'you never know,'" Ophir wrote in an email. "So if there's one or two exciting tweets, or a rewarding social experience in the Facebook Ticker, and we can never tell when something like that will come again, that's going to be a good motivator for us to just keep checking. And that's going to drive up the perceived value of interrupting whatever we're doing (work, family, etc.) to go and check." more

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