Cell Phone Addiction – Ingredients of Behavioral Addiction: Feedback

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Last week, I was surprised to discover that goals can be an ingredient of behavioral addiction. This week, I was just as surprised to learn that feedback could be an ingredient of addiction–until I started reading.

In similar fashion to previous chapters, the author builds a case through a series of interesting stories that help to demonstrate the veracity of his claim. Below I’ve listed a few of the Alter’s example. As you review these examples, think about how Smart Phones and apps (perhaps technology in general) are designed to deliver feedback in a similar fashion.

  1. The child who pushes all of the buttons on the elevator. It would never happen without a simple form of feedback (the buttons light up). ELF – Elevator Scene
  2. Reddit’s “The Button” prank. If nothing happened when people pushed the button, then the word would have gotten out that it’s nothing, and the prank would have died. Instead, a little bit of meaningless feedback hooked millions of people and created yet another cyber-community built around…a button.
  3. Zeiler’s Pigeons. (You’ll have to look that one up on your own.)

Do you know what most of these examples remind me of? … The “like” feature in Facebook. … Text messaging. … My own addiction to email.

Seriously: I hate looking at my inbox and seeing the bold emails that are still unread. I simply MUST do something about those bold messages! There are times that I find myself just clicking on them so that the bold font will disappear–that is the feedback I have come to crave. It’s probably why I constantly feel the need to check email, stay caught up with email, and just get rid of email as soon as possible. It’s why during meetings when I check to see if I have any email, I don’t even check to see who sent it or what the topic is–I just look for bold font!

At first glance, it’s easy to think that this author is crazy. Who would possibly suggest that goals and feedback could be ingredients for behavioral addiction? But the more I evaluate my own habits, compulsions, and addictions, the more I see the genius in what he has to say.



Alter, Adam. (2018). Irresistible The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. Penguin Group USA.