Random Intermittent Reward

From Weekly I/O#62

Random Intermittent Reward is the most powerful mechanism to keep people repeating the same behavior. Social media triggers dopamine hits intermittently to keep us scrolling.

Podcast: Master Your Mind & Change Your Brain - Andrew Huberman | Modern Wisdom 496

The concept of intermittent variable rewards (also known as random rewards), discovered by psychologist B.F. Skinner, explains the motivation behind repeating behaviors. When scrolling through social media, we don't know when we are going to come across something highly interesting or rewarding. As a result, we continue scrolling, eagerly anticipating the next captivating post, whether it's a thrilling event or a shocking incident like a riot or someone jumping off a building.

Abnormal things like tragic events have a strong pull on our attention. Thus, we end up endlessly scrolling, constantly seeking the next dopamine hit without knowing when it will occur precisely. This behavior shares a similar underlying mechanism with gambling.

And that's how social media utilizes intermittent random rewards to trigger dopamine releases, making users continue scrolling and continuously seeking the next rewarding experience.

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