Social media use driven by search for reward, akin to animals seeking food

New York University. “Social media use driven by search for reward, akin to animals seeking food.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 February 2021.

Date: February 26, 2021

Source: New York University

Summary: Our use of social media, specifically our efforts to maximize ‘likes,’ follows a pattern of ‘reward learning,’ concludes a new study by an international team of scientists. Its findings reveal parallels with the behavior of animals, such as rats, in seeking food rewards.

“These results establish that social media engagement follows basic, cross-species principles of reward learning,” explains David Amodio, a professor at New York University and the University of Amsterdam and one of the paper’s authors. “These findings may help us understand why social media comes to dominate daily life for many people and provide clues, borrowed from research on reward learning and addiction, to how troubling online engagement may be addressed.”

In 2020, more than four billion people spent several hours per day, on average, on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other more specialized forums. This widespread social media engagement has been likened by many to an addiction, in which people are driven to pursue positive online social feedback, such as “likes,” over direct social interaction and even basic needs like eating and drinking.

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Journal Reference:

  1. Björn Lindström, Martin Bellander, David T. Schultner, Allen Chang, Philippe N. Tobler, David M. Amodio. A computational reward learning account of social media engagementNature Communications, 2021; 12 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-19607-x

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