Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Are you addicted?

It’s a common message: “Don’t Text and Drive.” The dangers of texting and driving are real and yet; lives are still forever changed when that split-second glance behind the wheel turns that smart phone into a dangerous weapon.

With all the warnings and advisories filling our airwaves why is it so hard for us to drive distraction free?
Scientists and psychologists may have an answer to that. 

The Science:
Inside our brains lives a little compound called “Dopamine.” It is what gives us the drive to pursue the things we love such as eating, hobbies, and romance. According to Psychology  Today, Dopamine is also responsible for various addictions that we deal with on a daily basis. For some of us, if our bodies were like vehicles, Dopamine would be the pilot.

The Psychology:
Over 100 years ago a Russian Physiologist, Ivan Pavlov, made a huge behavioral discovery: classical conditioning.  Using dogs and food he was able to deduce that they would start drooling anytime he or his assistants entered the room, even if they didn’t have food. The dogs’ brains were hardwired to expect a reward, (food)  when they saw lab coats. Pavlov further tested this process when he struck a bell at meal times. Eventually, he struck the bell without food and the dogs still salivated.

Mixing it together:
Dopamine, the reward center of our brains, mixed with the classical conditioning combines to what we deal with on an everyday basis: Technology addiction. When the message alert goes off on our cell phones, we immediately respond. Dopamine levels rise, and we get a “reward” when we pick up our phones. Remarkably, there are times when we want to be rewarded so much that we look at our phones without the alert, and expect something to happen. 

Studies have shown that when the alerts go off anxiety levels rise if they can’t be answered right away. If cell phones are left at home or lost, withdrawal symptoms are reported. Some would even say that they couldn’t live without their phones and for many, this is a reality. These tiny devices hold our schedules, our contacts, important information and there are even apps that save lives. As a society, our phones connect us to the world around us, and for many, that connection is just too strong to ignore.

All of these things combine to make texting and driving a serious habit that is hard to break.  Even with all these behavioral and scientific answers, it is still wise to turn your phone off or on silent, tuck them away, watch the road, and drive.  It can wait. 

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