LANSING (WWJ) The addictive quality of smart phones was one of the topics Thursday morning on the final day of the Traffic Safety Summit in Lansing.

Dr. David Greenfield from the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction spoke at the conference, saying our device can be as addictive as a slot machine.

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It’s so irresistible, Greenfield says 75 percent of people admit to using our cell phone’s data stream while driving.

And that’s a recipe for disaster.

“It’s just a matter of time before you have an accident,” Greenfield said. “You can’t multi-task. It’s not possible to do two things at once. It takes four to six seconds to pick up your phone, look at it, process something, and then put it back down. And in four to six seconds you’re traveling hundreds and hundreds of feet on the highway.”

Greenfield says dopamine, the pleasure neuro-chemical in the reward system of our brain, is one reason we feel the need to check on our smart phone so often. Your phone unleashes the feel-good chemical, as do drugs, sex and sweet and salty foods.

And according to Psychology Today, dopamine is a powerful motivator in the human brain. “Dopamine causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search,” Psychology Today writes. “It increases your general level of arousal and your goal-directed behavior. From an evolutionary stand-point this is critical. The dopamine seeking system keeps you motivated to move through your world, learn, and survive.”

It’s such a powerful force that some believe people, especially teenagers, are replacing drugs with smartphone addiction. In the New York Times, Dr. Nora Volkow described interactive media as “an alternative reinforcer” to drugs, adding that “teens can get literally high when playing these games.”

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Greenfield says the notifications are especially dangerous on our phones, letting us know that there is a potential reward waiting for us if we just pick it up.

“When those notifications go off on your phone, you feel compelled to pick it up,” Greenfield said. “Driving in your car, you’re six to 10 times more likely to end up in an accident if you’re using your smartphone while you’re driving.”

To Greenfield, smart phones are essentially a portable dopamine pump.

“It operates on the same variable ratio reinforcement schedule a slot machine does,” he said. “Every once in a while when you check your phone you don’t know what you’re going to get, when you’re going to get it and what it’s going to be and how good it’s going to be for you.”




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