Smartphone addiction is no different from the hard-drug physical kind.
[Cross-posted at The Fallible Mind, my blog at Psychology Today]
Ambivalence is a defining feature of addiction, even with smartphone screens.
Ambivalence is a prominent feature in addictions whether of the physical or behavioral kind. Valence is the positive or negative weight one assigns to an event, object, person, or situation. Being ambi-valent (Latin, “both”) means that one is simultaneously of two minds. Importantly, the two minds are contradictory rather than merely different.
In practical terms, an addict wants to stop but can’t. This is what it means to be addicted and what non–addicted people often cannot grasp. They come at it from their own perspective of being able to moderate and stop drinking, smoking, or taking their pain pills without a struggle. But addicts continue despite severe experiences with negative consequences such as arrest or loss of job, family, home, and health. Because this behavior makes no sense to the non-addicted, they speak of moral failings or lack of willpower. Governments criminalize drug use even though it exacerbates the problem. Penal approaches don’t address the out-of-whack wanting system in the addict’s brain that produces the demand for the addictive substance whether it is crack cocaine or a smartphone screen. Incarceration isn’t a deterrent at all, and the same goes for most well–intended disincentives. What might this tell us about which countermeasures to ubiquitous screen distractions are most likely to succeed? Continue reading
What draws people to abstract art? Why are paintings of Campbell’s soup cans worth millions of dollars?
Next week I’ll be speaking at the 14th Istanbul Biennial on relations between art and neuroscience, metaphoric thinking and embodied perception. A book signing follows. The 2015 Biennial, entitled Saltwater: A Theory of Thought Forms, brings artists and scientists together in 30 venues on the European and Asian sides of the Bosphorus River to explore how the brain navigates through states of instability and fragmentation, and re–aggregates them in the artistic process. Learn more about the Instanbul Biennial here and here and here. See you on the Bosphorus!
Listen to my talk with Richard Aldous on “Your Brain on Screens.”
It isn’t the wine, but what’s in the rest of the shopping cart.
[Cross-posted at The Fallible Mind, my blog at Psychology Today]
Just how scientifically illiterate is the American public? Woefully so, it turns out. A common error is that people mistake correlation with causation. If you do “A” and then “B” happens, then A “must have” caused B, right?
Afraid not. Correlation and causation are entirely different creatures. When the rooster crows, the sun rises. But are you going to conclude that the rooster causes the sun to rise? Of course not. There is a hidden third force at work, the rotation of the earth that is the actual cause of sunrise. Continue reading
May 27, 10 a.m. at the Wednesday Morning Group, Cedar Lane Unitarian Church, 9601 Cedar Lane, Bethesda MD, 20814.
Richard E. Cytowic, MD, MFA speaks about the crossed–senses of synesthesia, how it relates to creativity, and the challenge it poses to brain-inspired “neuromorphic” computing such as IBM’s Watson. A book signing follows his talk.
The Wednesday Morning Group (wmgroup.org) is a weekly meeting of curious individuals who engage guest speakers and one another.Founded 50 years ago, the organization is open to all (a guest fee of $5 is requested). Typical lectures cover current events, literature, art, education, and social issues.
Dr. Cytowic’ s talk is followed by a book signing of Wednesday is Indigo Blue, winner of the Montaigne Medal (cash or check only, please). For further queries contact Julie Goodman firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is my review of Jennifer Weiner’s “All Fall Down: A Novel” at the New York Journal of Books:
“How glibly addicts deceive themselves.”
“I’d escape from rehab. Then maybe take myself to a spa for a few days. Fresh air, long hikes, nothing stronger than aspirin and iced tea. That was the ticket.” How glibly addicts deceive themselves.
In All Fall Down, Jennifer Weiner’s 11th novel now in its paperback release, we meet Allison W., a successful, over-educated suburbanite who seemingly has it all—husband, career, treasured daughter, big house—everything she thought she wanted. Continue reading
Here is my review of Michael Crawford’s “The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction” at the New York Journal of Books:
“The lack of direct immersion and the increasing rarity of actual face-to-face interactions are the true cause of our anomie . . . and our isolation in a supposedly ever- connected world.”
Here is another commentary on declining attention spans and our increasingly fragmented lives. Except in The World Beyond Your Head Matthew B. Crawford argues that we complain about the wrong thing: technology is more a symptom than a cause. Attention entails more than individual minds because it has become a cultural problem.
Crawford is senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. His book goes past pop psychology to weave a sophisticated philosophical argument about the challenges of mastering one’s own mind. His earlier book, Shop Class As Soul Craft, was hailed by the Financial Times as “a next–Generation Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”
“Ours is now a highly mediated existence in which . . . we increasingly encounter the world through representations.” This disembodiment of perception, the lack of direct immersion, and the increasing rarity of actual face-to-face interactions are the true causes of our anomie, our isolation in a supposedly ever-connected world, and our sense of being overwhelmed. Continue reading
Here is my review of Gretchen Rubin’s “Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives” at the New York Journal of Books:
“will her recipe that combines research, personal anecdotes, and social media feedback prove superior to existing advice, or will it fall like a failed soufflé?”
Most of the time we behave unthinkingly, which is to say by habit. Habits define our existence and our future, says Gretchen Rubin in Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. If you accept that we repeat 40% of our behaviors every day, that they are the “invisible architecture of our everyday lives,” then what she says should give us pause.
Here is my review of Matt Richtel’s “The Doomsday Equation: A Novel” at the New York Journal of Books:
“The algorithm was the equivalent of giving the world a blood test, taking its temperature, assessing its mood.”
The domains of big data collection, mathematical algorithms, machine intelligence, and human ambition collide magnificently in The Doomsday Equation by Matt Richtel.
At its simplest, the multilayered plot gives wunderkind Jeremy Stillwater three days to prevent the outbreak of World War III. Unfortunately, no one believes him given that his sandpaper personality has alienated all his former supporters and fueled his many enemies. That his algorithm can accurately predict global conflicts counts for naught in the eyes of the countervailing operatives in this thriller.
Here is my review of Susan Greenfield’s “Mind Change: How Digital Technologies Are Leaving Their Mark on Our Brains” at the New York Journal of Books:
“Anything we practice repeatedly changes the brain; fixate on iPhones and similar screens, and we become better at staying helplessly glued to them.”
For eons humans have adapted splendidly to every niche on the planet. In the digital era our brains have likewise been adapting to the increasing bombardment of data, and the results are decidedly mixed. So says Baroness Susan Greenfield, a much–decorated neuroscientist and former director of Britain’s Royal Institution.