Why email is addictive (and what to do about it)

If you haven’t run across Tom Stafford’s “Mind Hacks” blog (and I hadn’t) it is a pretty good read. I liked this posting for an unusual reason. I know I’m addicted to email. I even know what I need to do to control it (but I don’t). What caught my eye was the subtitle: “Email is addictive because it is a variable-interval reinforcement schedule.” Wow! A behavioural analysis of email addiction. I’m always looking for good examples for our theoretical foundations course, and this is a really good one for operant conditioning. Even one of the comments to the posting makes a correction to a misinterpretation of the theory. I’m not a big fan of behaviourism as a theory that applies very well to learning, but a good example is a good example, and this is one.

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