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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

May 9, 2017 - NPA resolution: Let's try again

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Sree Vijaykumar
Sree Vijaykumar
From the Editor's Desk
The next time you click on that red notification icon on your social media app, think about the 'principle of variable rewards'. In 1930, a psychologist at Harvard University called B.F. Skinner made a box and placed a hungry rat inside it. The box had a lever on one side. As the rat moved about it would accidentally knock the lever and, when it did so, a food pellet would drop into the box. After a rat had been put in the box a few times, it learned to go straight to the lever and press it. If the food pellet dropped every time the lever was pressed, the rat eventually pressed the lever only when hungry. However, what's fascinating is that the way to maximise the number of times the rat pulled the lever was to vary the rewards it received. If it didn't know whether it was going to get one pellet, or none, or several when it pulled the lever, then it pulled the lever over and over again. It became psychologically hooked. This became known as the principle of variable rewards. More on the science of addictive apps here.

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