Monday, October 27, 2014

The Dangers of Texting Behind the Wheel

“It’s an addiction,” Shaw says. “How else can you explain it? I see people who can’t sit in class for 45 minutes without using their cell phone. That’s just the way we are now. We have to be connected all the time, and it’s scary.” Richtel makes a compelling case for seeing our desire for digital interactivity “as an analogy to what smokers experience, craving another cigarette when their nicotine levels fall. When you check your phone, you get a little dopamine peak, it regulates and then you start to feel a little yearning, and so you check it again.” We’ve all seen people compulsively refreshing their e-mail as if awaiting the message of a lifetime. “You would think that if you knew that most of what you get is spam or irrelevant, and in fact 67 percent of it is, that it would make your device less magnetic,” Richtel says. “Perversely, it makes it more magnetic because you never know when the good thing will come.” Richtel refers to smartphones as “veritable slot machines in our pockets.” He uses B.F. Skinner’s theory of intermittent reinforcement to make the case that, like Skinner’s rats, we “keep pushing the buttons, waiting for the good thing.” more

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