Email addiction turns us into lab rats expecting rewards

December 8th, 2010 - 4:14 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 8 (IANS) Using the internet and an obsession with email is turning us into ‘lab rats’ looking for rewards, says an expert.

Nicholas Carr, former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, said information overload is stopping people from concentrating on tasks as they search for “pellets of social interaction”.

The non-stop information overload also makes it impossible to think deeply in a syndrome that has been christened Divided Attention Disorder, or DAD.

Carr, who wrote a book “The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains”, says that our basic human instinct to search for new information makes us addicted to our inboxes. Many office workers check their email up to 30 times an hour, reports the Daily Mail.

Carr told Esquire magazine: “Our gadgets have turned us into high-tech lab rats, mindlessly pressing levers in the hope of receiving a pellet of social or intellectual nourishment.”

“What makes digital messages all the more compelling is their uncertainty. There’s always the possibility that something important is waiting for us in our inbox …[which] overwhelms our knowledge that most online missives are trivial.”

Carr’s warning is just the latest by an expert who fears that the digital age may be having unseen consequences for our brain’s health.

Maryanne Wolf, cognitive neuroscientist at Tufts University in Massachusetts, US, said brain circuits honed by reading books and thinking about their contents could be lost as people spend more time on computers.

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