The endless possibilities for innovation keep millions forever addicted to their phones

Copenhagen, Denmark – Why are millions of people around the world constantly glued to their phone screens? Researchers at the University of Copenhagen believe they have found it. They suggest that the root of our digital distractions may lie in our innate desire for innovation combined with the ease with which technology offers it.

In their study, the scientists argue that our craving for novelty is a fundamental aspect of human psychology.

“When we get this internal urge to check our email or the latest updates on Facebook, it’s not because we’re overloaded with information; Often, we don’t even engage with our mobile phone when the urge strikes,” says Jelle Brunberg, a philosopher at the University of Copenhagen. University Publication. „But the act of checking our phones gives us easy access to a more satisfying reward: a novel piece of information. This craving for novelty is a fundamental aspect of how our minds work, according to cognitive neuroscience.

According to cognitive neuroscience, this desire for innovation is deeply rooted in our minds.

“Digital technologies give us the means to achieve this reward without any effort. We only have to move two fingers on our phones,” explains Brunberg.

„If I’m in a library, which has a lot of information, it doesn’t make sense for me to develop a habit of checking out depending on a particular book. It’s very cumbersome, but the information in a book is stable, it doesn’t change suddenly the way information in the digital realm changes. A combination that makes us more susceptible to developing 'checking habits’.

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So, what accounts for our digital distractions?

While it is widely accepted that symptoms of digital technology use include distraction and difficulty focusing on important matters, Brunberg challenges the prevailing narrative.

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„The current discussion of the attention economy leans heavily toward a particular way of conceptualizing the interaction between attention and information,” Brunberg notes. „The assumption is that before the advent of digital technology, there was a time when information was scarce, so that we could control our attention as we wished. Now we live in an age of abundance of information, so it has become more difficult to control our attention. Following this idea, only by exposing ourselves to less information, the problem will be solved. But one’s Nothing says controlling attention is always easy.

Throughout history, various religious communities have emphasized meditation and contemplative practices to help individuals gain control over their attention and overcome everyday distractions. Instead of introducing distraction, digital technologies may offer different and more widespread ways of being distracted. Brunberg proposes that there is a profound mismatch between the way our minds work and the structure of modern digital technologies.

„We—and our minds—are ill-equipped to deal with environments that allow for frictionless engagement and task switching, a practically infinite amount of readily available innovation and rewards. And the only way to counter this growth is to heavily control our digital environments,” Brunberg concludes. „For example, receiving emails only twice a day guarantees that there is nothing new in your inbox between those moments. Fifty years from now, we look back in horror at how complex and unmanageable our current digital environments are.

The study is published in the journal The neuroscience of consciousness.

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