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how the brain makes us addicted to information

Hurry up on our smartphone for the least notice, check regularly if we receive important emails or compile compulsorily on social networks … When new technologies are an integral part of our daily lives and where the "beep" tells us to come up with a new message our days, we are all more or less concerned about this behavior.

But can we go so far as to say that we are dependent on information or social networks? This is in any case the thesis developed by researchers at the Haas School of Business at Berkeley University. In Review Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), they explain that information acts on the brain rewarding circle by dopamine production. In the same way as money or sweets.

"For the brain the information is its own reward, beyond its usefulness," says neuroeconomist Ming Hsu. "And just as our brain loves empty calories of junk food, so they can overdo it with information that makes us feel good, but not useful, what some people call idiots."

Estimating awards makes information worthwhile

In his research, the researcher and his disciple have shown that the brain turns information into curiosity and how we consume it contagious for digital. "For the first time we have been able to show the existence of a common neural code between information and money, which opens the door to a series of exciting questions about how people consume, and sometimes too much," says Professor Hsu.

To better understand how this phenomenon works, the researchers scanned the brains as they played the game of happiness. Each participant received a lot of lottery and had to decide how much he was willing to pay to find out more about the odds of winning. In some cases, the information was precious to hope for victory, others did not matter much, for example when the bet was low.

In most cases, participants have made rational decisions based on the economic value of information, ie how much money can they make to make money. But researchers have also found that they tend to exaggerate with information in general, and especially in high value lotteries. It seems that larger roles have heightened people's curiosity about information even when that information did not affect their decisions.

Researchers considered these sources of information research to be driven by economic and psychological reasons: people "buy" information not only in terms of actual benefits, but also in terms of anticipating their information. used, whether used or not.

For Professor Hsua, as if you wanted to know if we got a good job offer, though we do not intend to accept it. "Prediction is used to amplify how good or bad something looks and anticipating the award-winning reward makes information even more valuable," he says.

The same effect as junk food

Researchers also wondered how our brain responds to information. Analyzing MRI participants, they discovered that information on gambling results triggered the same brain regions as those that produced dopamine and triggered junk foods, money or drugs.

They also found that curiosity about information produced the same neuronal code that produces for money or other tangible awards. "We can look at the brain and say how much someone wants information and then translate that brain activity into monetary amounts," says the researcher.

While research does not directly address excessive digital information consumption, the fact that information includes brain reward system is a necessary condition for the addiction cycle. "The way our brain responds to the expectation of a beautiful prize is an important reason why people are sensitive to the clickbuit," says Hsu.

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