unleashing behavioral psychology to create addiction – welcome to web 2.0.

Posted on August 16, 2012


i have been reading a number of articles recently that speak about how web companies are using neuroscience and behavioral pyschology to create addictive “experiences”. Basically, creating positive dopamine loops that give people a little “pleasure” boost and have them coming back like little rats on a treadmill… (facebook like, social badges, online games etc…)

I speak from the perspective of the cynical creator of web content that i am, and  so have been guilty of trying to achieve this myself.

Social Networks are really interesting. basically, taking basic human need for positive affirmation and creating a button for it (like)… sheer Pavlovian genius. who in their right mind doesnt want somebody to like what they have said. who doesnt want friends commenting on the pick of your cat in a pirates costume? but is this sustainable? is this “real” in the true sense of the word. A while back though i was taking a look around me and reading “you are not a gadget” by Jaron Lanier and it got me thinking. how much of what is being built is actually useful utility and how much is just habit forming addiction, like TV. How much expands our personality and how much reduces it to a sliver of itself, creating a false “connection”. Like any tool, its how you use it, but unlike any tool, it is built to make you use it more through behavioral psychology.

Please dont mistake me for some facebook “hater”, i have been responsible for a number of 100k+ facebok communities unleashed by using these same models, unleashing pictures of cats to massive likes and happy comments of lonely people everywhere, but i am concerned.