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Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked

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Welcome to the age of behavioral addiction—an age in which half of the American population is addicted to at least one behavior. We obsess over our emails, Instagram likes, and Facebook feeds; we binge on TV episodes and YouTube videos; we work longer hours each year; and we spend an average of three hours each day using our smartphones. Half of us would rather suffer a broken bone than a broken phone, and Millennial kids spend so much time in front of screens that they struggle to interact with real, live humans.

In this revolutionary book, Adam Alter, a professor of psychology and marketing at NYU, tracks the rise of behavioral addiction, and explains why so many of today's products are irresistible. Though these miraculous products melt the miles that separate people across the globe, their extraordinary and sometimes damaging magnetism is no accident. The companies that design these products tweak them over time until they become almost impossible to resist.

By reverse engineering behavioral addiction, Alter explains how we can harness addictive products for the good—to improve how we communicate with each other, spend and save our money, and set boundaries between work and play—and how we can mitigate their most damaging effects on our well-being, and the health and happiness of our children.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published March 7, 2017

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About the author

Adam Alter

7 books242 followers
Adam Alter is an Associate Professor of Marketing and Psychology at New York University’s Stern School of Business, and the author of Drunk Tank Pink, a New York Times bestseller about the forces that shape how we think, feel, and behave, and Irresistible, a book about the rise of tech addiction and what we should do about it.

Alter was recently included in the Poets and Quants “40 Most Outstanding Business School Professors under 40 in the World,” and has written for the New York Times, New Yorker, Wired, Washington Post, and The Atlantic, among other publications. He has shared his ideas at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity and with dozens of companies around the world.

Alter received his Bachelor of Science (Honors Class 1, University Medal) in Psychology from the University of New South Wales and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Psychology from Princeton University, where he held the Charlotte Elizabeth Procter Honorific Dissertation Fellowship and a Fellowship in the Woodrow Wilson Society of Scholars.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,258 reviews
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
763 reviews3,486 followers
August 30, 2020
There are 2 categories of people, conservative technophobes and neurologists, doctors, and brain scientists, who are ironically coming to a similar conclusion: having the very strong, over millions of years developed social reward and group dynamics systems condensed in a tiny machine for 24/7 use, is a dangerous and for many people life assimilating option, opening space for the ultimate misuse of a technology that could be used for education,work, and reading is instead turned in a hedonism booster.

Psychologically, it´s more subtle than usual drugs with cold turkeys and the option to quit and never be confronted with it again, as social life seems to stay pretty attractive and living in a society of moderate users and junkies who obviously have no direct negative impact makes it difficult to argue and warns against it. It stigmatizes and isolates the Cassandras who will think twice before expressing doubts about the mature and intelligent use of social networks, opening themselves for the harsh criticism that just because they aren´t able to handle and control their online time, that doesn´t mean that the media itself is evil or that others have simply more willpower.

People interested in staying in contact with familiy, friends, and peers face other problems, such as the duty to like back, bearing spammers and permanent posters, the permanent fight against the tempation to check social media, the loss of real-life time with humans, being a bad paragon for the own kids, being transparent for government and companies, the unclear long term effects of more and more emissions, and the question how useful the idealization and celebration of trivial and redundant small talk and superficiality may be. There would be so many social collaboration and working networks, wikis, specialized networks in general, Reddit, etc., that can help to learn new skills, specializing, and especially giving and getting knowledge and having productive communications instead of endless idiot trash talk drivel.

TV was already pretty influential and lucrative, not to forget the addictive factor, but the new technology enabling everyone to tailer her/his own ultimate hobby entertainment fun feed, while pseudo actively participating and forming it and the ones of others, is just seemingly free and innocent fun. The companies don´t just sell products, but ideologies and political agendas in subtle ways, bringing new problems for democratic participation and opinion formation, using the consumer as their malleable product sold to advertisers and the dark entities in the background boo, conspiracy. Printed political ads and radio and TV campaign commercials were easy to identify, except for people hooked on getting indoctrinated and mind penetrated by bigoted demagogues, but the new league of disguised manipulation by posting fake news, documentaries and bot army troll opinions makes the electoral arms race impossible to control, especially when looking at states secretly influencing the elections in other countries. Not even mentioning the more sinister power balances and struggles inside countries shadow governments, think tanks, and camouflaged secret reptilian alien overlords.

A nice bonus feature of turning human social interaction in an obsessive compulsive disorder with bipolar manic depressive disorder elements of highs for popularity and downs for feeling inferior in comparison to the splendid lives of all others, permanently happy people. I have the huge advantage of not socializing at all, but I imagine it very difficult to handle for people without strong preferences for introversion and happy self-isolation.

A wiki walk can be as refreshing to the mind as a walk through nature in this completely overrated real life outside books:
Profile Image for Lisa.
974 reviews3,328 followers
November 23, 2018
I have to admit, the book was quite irresistible, once I got started.

I couldn't put it down.

After finishing it, I had to ask myself why. There was nothing new in it. Nothing I didn't already know or experience every day with my young students. Social media and internet addiction are so widespread, they are almost normalised.

What made me feel hooked to the book was rather that I recognised myself in so many of the behaviour addiction patterns. I am not addicted to Facebook or World of Warcraft, so I thought I was reading this as an "onlooker". But the symptoms are very similar to other compulsive behaviours, like exercise or eating disorders, or compulsive shopping.

The major difference to "traditional" substance addiction lies in the therapy, not in the behaviour itself. One can treat drug addictions or alcoholism by encouraging abstinence, but most behaviour addictions need to be changed into controlled consumption rather than avoidance. We need technology to some extent, and learning how to control it must therefore be part of our education.

This book offers an overview of some of the temptations that trigger addiction, including cliffhanger sequences, positive feedback loops and social interaction. Being knowledgeable about what happens in our brains when we engage in internet consumption is a crucial tool for prevention.

I forced myself to put my smartphone in a bag for a whole Sunday without checking it while I was reading this text - and it was not as easy as I had thought. Nomophobia (no mobile phobia) therapy does not sound as outlandish to me anymore as it did before I tried living for a day without it myself. There is shock value in realising just how much time I spend staring into a small screen.

For me, the most important lesson from reading Irresistible is to always question my urge to "check the phone" quickly to feed my need for positive feedback. Regulating oneself before the technology becomes overpowering and harmful - that is the way forwards for healthy technology/internet consumption.

And it is amazing how much time it frees up to ignore the 24/7 flood of messages.

Recommended to all of us, living between real and virtual worlds.
Profile Image for Jerzy.
469 reviews105 followers
April 21, 2017
Take it with a huge grain of salt. There are some fun cocktail-party facts and some reasonable suggestions for changing your own habits, which are fine as "hey, why not try it, it might work for you."
It's just not much good as "scientific evidence proves that..."
[For example: Experimental group improved by a "dramatic" 40%, but control group improved by only a "paltry" 30%! ... which actually meant that group A improved by 5 points out of 50, and B by 3 points out of 50! ... which is probably a statistical fluke, and even if not, it's certainly not a scientifically interesting difference! Argh.]

Also, it's kinda funny that most of the book warns against the dangers of overusing artificial metrics. Then, the last chapter suggests fixing our problems with gamification... i.e. artificial over-reliance on metrics.

But again, good fodder for suggesting new approaches. I'd like to apply a couple of these ideas in my teaching, if I can figure out how.

Fun facts:
* Steve Jobs and other tech titans don't allow their kids to play with the same tech (iPads etc) that they push on everyone else.
* Relief vs. reward: addictions involve positive reinforcement (a reward you'll enjoy if you do X), while obsessions and compulsions involve negative reinforcement (if you do X, you'll be relieved of the pressure to do it). Personally I think a lot of marketing etc. is more about relief than reward: it's not that you'll actually *enjoy* having this new product, but rather that you'll buy it to *stop feeling bad* that other people have it and you don't. Same with trying to "get the complete set" or rack up all the points in a game: it's not that *having* 100% completion is fun, but that *not having* it feels bad.
* Check out the Internet Addiction Test. Many items seem harmless alone, but it's disconcerting once you see how many of them stack up.
* "Addiction" originally meant becoming a slave to work off a debt you can't pay, back in ancient Rome. Only later did it mean other kinds of tough-to-break bonds.
* Addictions are strongly tied to the setting/context/environment, not just the behavior itself. Scientists caused a caged monkey to get addicted to pressing a bar; it returned to behaving like a normal monkey when it "detoxed" outside the cage; but when put back it, it'd return to the frantic addictive behavior. So... put physical and psychological distance between yourself and the original setting when you try to break an addictive behavior.
* Addictions could be thought of as a hijacking of brain systems meant for good purposes: we've evolved ways to persist in difficult-but-important things (like raising kids), but sometimes these mental systems end up helping us persist in bad things instead.
* Adolescence and early adulthood are high-risk periods for addiction: young folks have many new responsibilities but haven't yet built up the coping skills, social support networks, and other healthy ways to deal with hardships. So, try to help your kids build resilience before and during the teen years.
* Wanting vs liking (perhaps related to relief vs reward?): It's easy to disrupt "liking" an addictive behavior, but once the "want" is established it is MUCH harder to disrupt. You can crave something, even if you don't enjoy it when you have it.
* "Don't break the streak" is a nice motivator---until you overdo it, like runners who try to keep up an unbroken streak of running every day for decades, even when they're sick or injured. The longer your streak, the more willing you are to go to extremes to keep it up. (I wonder: What if these runners didn't reward themselves for unbroken streaks longer than, say, a month? After a month, you start on the next 1-month streak, and just try to rack up many months, whether or not they are continuous. Then if you're sick, no worries, you can take a needed rest day, because it won't break your score by too much...) Also, games like FarmVille apparently use this streak-mentality to make money: if you miss a day, you can pay them (real money) to "revert the damage" to the crops you didn't water yesterday or whatever. So, they feed an unhealthy obsession *and* make money off of you: truly predatory!
* The Dollar Auction Game: a brilliant little trick. Sounds like it'd be fun to expose my statistician colleagues to this and see what happens. Also apparently a good way to raise money for charity if you bid off something larger like $20 instead.
* The Zone of Proximal Development: things you can't do at all are too hard; things you can do alone may be boring; but you learn a lot on the things you can just barely do with a little bit of help. Similar to the state of Flow, when your skill level is appropriate for the task's challenge level. (Right now, my PhD thesis is *not* in either of these states :P but I hope to get back in there soon!) One problem is that games, email, and other electronic distractions are designed to keep you in flow... so, one solution is to disrupt that flow artificially. Use old hardware which makes the experience slow and clunky. Don't keep your smartphone handy at all times. [Are there other suggestions out there?]
* Near-wins can be more addictive than genuine wins. In a game of skill, near-wins do legitimately signal that you're almost there, you can nearly do it, just try a little harder next time! But games of luck hijack this too and suck us into spending more time on something useless or harmful (like casino games or lotteries designed to give results that look *almost* like a win. You think to yourself: I got 4 in a row and would have won if it'd just had that 5th one---let me try again!)
* Sometimes the hard problem isn't knowing how to start, but how *not to stop.* When you want to build a new habit like regular exercise or healthier eating, it's easy enough to do it for one day, but what are your (unconscious) "stopping rules" that make you fall off the bandwagon? (No good answers here, sadly.)
* The Zeigarnik Effect: people hate cliffhangers, and they'll better remember unresolved tasks than resolved ones. (See for example the vitriol around the waiting times between Game Of Thrones books...) I wonder: Could we use the Zeigarnik Effect in teaching/education somehow? Assign in-class problems near the end of lecture, and *don't* allow quite enough time to finish, with the hope that the students will mull over the problem outside of class?
* Catherine Steiner-Adair's work on parenting: Don't be scary (rigid), crazy (overreacting), or clueless (about your kids' lives, modern tech, etc.)
* Self-determination theory: focuses on 3 basic human needs, for autonomy (I'm in control of my own life), competence (I can overcome external challenges and experience mastery), and relatedness (bonds with family & friends). (Again, the process of getting a PhD really dampens down all 3 of these needs a lot of time :P ...)
* Don't try to *drop* old bad habits, but *replace* them with better new ones. (So what are some good examples? Not many actual suggestions here.) Or, when resisting something, instead of saying you *can't* do it, say you *don't*: you're not playing the martyr who is forbidden by external forces, but the autonomous person of integrity who chose to take this stand.
* Daimler's office emails are set to delete when the employee is on vacation, with an auto-reply message suggesting someone else who can help if the email is urgent. That sounds lovely, but also requires the whole company to buy-in; you'd probably just alienate everyone if you try this alone...
* "Don't Waste Your Money motivator": set your goal and set aside money every week as you work towards it. If you fail, donate the money to someplace you don't support: an opposing political party or a frivolous cause. But if you succeed, take the money out and spend it "relationally"---a meal with friends, a gift for family, etc.---as a double-benefit reward.
* Planning fallacy: When wondering whether to take up a new activity, ask yourself if you can afford to do it *today*. We tend to overestimate how much time we can free up later, but we're better if we extrapolate from the amount of time we have today.
* Just Press Play: gamified educational environment. Sounds like it's not just gamifying specific computerized tasks, like assigning points and badges for online math exercises... but rather, the offline experience is gamified too, and in particular there are collaborative aspects. There's a "quest" which promises a reward to the entire freshman class if over 90% of them pass a certain difficult required course... so they found students were motivated to help each other, even getting help from junior and senior students. Maybe it's worth trying to gamify useful study habits like this.

* p.3: "According to Tristan Harris, a 'design ethicist,' the problem isn't that people lack willpower; it's that 'there are a thousand people on the other side of the screen whose job it is to break down the self-regulation you have.'"
* p.40, 229, 232, 243: several takes on the idea that kids learn empathy, understanding, and other parts of human interaction by interacting face-to-face. It can be much harder to learn these things when you interact so much by texting, posting on Facebook, etc.---you don't immediately see the impact that your words have on another person.
* p.106: "...it's hard not to wonder whether major life goals are by their nature a major source of frustration. Either you endure the anti-climax of succeeding, or you endure the disappointment of failing." Even people who reach incredible successes (like breaking a world record in sports) don't savor the success---they just want to move on to the next goal.
* p.114: "Counting steps and calories doesn't actually help us lose weight; it just makes us more compulsive. We become less intuitive about our physical activity and eating." (quote from Leslie Sim)
* p.117: "When you approach life as a sequence of milestones to be achieved, you exist 'in a state of near-continuous failure.' Almost all the time, by definition, you're not at the place you've defined as embodying accomplishment or success. And should you get there, you'll find you've lost the very thing that gave you a sense of purpose---so you'll formulate a new goal and start again." (quote by Oliver Burkeman, partly quoting Scott Adams) ... I worry this applies to tenure in academia. I know some folks who sacrificed a lot because they *felt driven* to reach tenure; but in the end, they don't actually *savor the accomplishment* of being tenured. When are those sacrifices worthwhile? Apparently Adams suggests replacing major goals (you get there or you don't) with "systems," i.e. "something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run." For him it's creating something small on a daily basis, like a daily cartooning or writing session: "a steadier stream of low-grade highs... guides to a fulfilling life, day by day..." For me, this sounds like my project to read one of my grandpa's philosophy books each year---it's about the journey of *reading* itself, not about the destination of *having read* them all.
* p.229: "Remember: once your cucumber brain has become pickled, it can never go back to being a cucumber." (quote from Hilarie Cash) ... Once you've been addicted and treated, you can't "have just one more" (smoke just one more cigarette, play just one more game of WoW) without massive risk of total relapse. Treatment doesn't erase the addiction and give you a fresh start, allowing moderation; it's most helpful if you avoid the bad thing completely.
Profile Image for Michael Perkins.
Author 6 books342 followers
February 24, 2022
“In 1976, Stephen King published a short story, “I Know What You Need,” about the courting of a young woman. Her suitor was a young man who could read her mind but did not tell her so. He simply appeared with what she wanted at the moment, beginning with strawberry ice cream for a study break. Step by step he changed her life, making her dependent upon him by giving her what she thought she wanted at a certain moment, before she herself had a chance to reflect. Her best friend realized that something disconcerting was happening, investigated, and learned the truth: “That is not love,” she warned. “That’s rape.” The internet is a bit like this. It knows much about us, but interacts with us without revealing that this is so. It makes us unfree by arousing our worst tribal impulses and placing them at the service of unseen others.”

― Timothy Snyder, The Road to Unfreedom


How I Ditched My iPhone

"My symptoms were all the typical ones: I found myself incapable of reading books, watching full-length movies or having long uninterrupted conversations."


“Distraction, rather than being occasional and derivative, becomes perpetual and primary. Rather than being a diversion from the main thing you do, it becomes the main thing you do.”

-"The Gospel According to David Foster Wallace: Boredom and Addiction in an Age of Distraction.”

How tech ate the media and our minds



From the WSJ, 9/13/2021

Digital Addictions Are Drowning Us in Dopamine

by Anna Lembke

A patient of mine, a bright and thoughtful young man in his early 20s, came to see me for debilitating anxiety and depression. He had dropped out of college and was living with his parents. He was vaguely contemplating suicide. He was also playing videogames most of every day and late into every night.

Twenty years ago the first thing I would have done for a patient like this was prescribe an antidepressant. Today I recommended something altogether different: a dopamine fast. I suggested that he abstain from all screens, including videogames, for one month.

Over the course of my career as a psychiatrist, I have seen more and more patients who suffer from depression and anxiety, including otherwise healthy young people with loving families, elite education and relative wealth. Their problem isn’t trauma, social dislocation or poverty. It’s too much dopamine, a chemical produced in the brain that functions as a neurotransmitter, associated with feelings of pleasure and reward.

When we do something we enjoy—like playing videogames, for my patient—the brain releases a little bit of dopamine and we feel good. But one of the most important discoveries in the field of neuroscience in the past 75 years is that pleasure and pain are processed in the same parts of the brain and that the brain tries hard to keep them in balance. Whenever it tips in one direction it will try hard to restore the balance, which neuroscientists call homeostasis, by tipping in the other.

As soon as dopamine is released, the brain adapts to it by reducing or “downregulating” the number of dopamine receptors that are stimulated. This causes the brain to level out by tipping to the side of pain, which is why pleasure is usually followed by a feeling of hangover or comedown. If we can wait long enough, that feeling passes and neutrality is restored. But there’s a natural tendency to counteract it by going back to the source of pleasure for another dose.

If we keep up this pattern for hours every day, over weeks or months, the brain’s set-point for pleasure changes. Now we need to keep playing games, not to feel pleasure but just to feel normal. As soon as we stop, we experience the universal symptoms of withdrawal from any addictive substance: anxiety, irritability, insomnia, dysphoria and mental preoccupation with using, otherwise known as craving.

Our brains evolved this fine-tuned balance over millions of years in which pleasures were scarce and dangers ever-present. The problem today is that we no longer live in that world. Instead, we now live in a world of overwhelming abundance. The quantity, variety and potency of highly reinforcing drugs and behaviors has never been greater. In addition to addictive substances like sugar and opioids, there is also a whole new class of electronic addictions that didn’t exist until about 20 years ago: texting, tweeting, surfing the web, online shopping and gambling. These digital products are engineered to be addictive, using flashing lights, celebratory sounds and “likes” to promise ever-greater rewards just a click away.


More from Dr. Lembke and about her new book....



A more detailed companion review on this subject....

July 31, 2018
Q: Why are the world’s greatest public technocrats also its greatest private technophobes? Can you imagine the outcry if religious leaders refused to let their children practice religion? Many experts both within and beyond the world of tech have shared similar perspectives with me. Several video game designers told me they avoided the notoriously addictive game World of Warcraft; an exercise addiction psychologist called fitness watches dangerous—“the dumbest things in the world”—and swore she’d never buy one; and the founder of an Internet addiction clinic told me she avoids gadgets newer than three years old. She has never used her phone’s ringer, and deliberately “misplaces” her phone so she isn’t tempted to check her email. (I spent two months trying to reach her by email, and succeeded only when she happened to pick up her office landline.) Her favorite computer game is Myst, released in 1993 when computers were still too clunky to handle video graphics. The only reason she was willing to play Myst, she told me, was because her computer froze every half hour and took forever to reboot. (c)
Q: Instagram, like so many other social media platforms, is bottomless. Facebook has an endless feed; Netflix automatically moves on to the next episode in a series; Tinder encourages users to keep swiping in search of a better option. Users benefit from these apps and websites, but also struggle to use them in moderation. According to Tristan Harris, a “design ethicist,” the problem isn’t that people lack willpower; it’s that “there are a thousand people on the other side of the screen whose job it is to break down the self-regulation you have.” (c)
Q: In a 1990 editorial in the British Journal of Addiction, a psychiatrist named Isaac Marks claimed that, “Life is a series of addictions and without them we die. (c)
Q: Addiction, to Peele, is “an extreme, dysfunctional attachment to an experience that is acutely harmful to a person, but that is an essential part of the person’s ecology and that the person cannot relinquish.” (c)
Q: In 1984, Alexey Pajitnov was working at a computer lab at the Russian Academy of Science in Moscow. Many of the lab’s scientists worked on side projects, and Pajitnov began working on a video game. The game borrowed from tennis and a version of four-piece dominoes called tetrominoes, so Pajitnov combined those words to form the name Tetris. Pajitnov worked on Tetris for much longer than he planned because he couldn’t stop playing the game...
One satisfying feature of the game is the sense that you’re building something—that your efforts produce a pleasing tower of colored bricks. “You have the chaos coming as random pieces, and your job is to put them in order,” Pajitnov said. “But just as you construct the perfect line, it disappears. All that remains is what you fail to complete.” Mikhail Kulagin, Pajitnov’s friend and a fellow programmer, remembers feeling a strong drive to fix his mistakes. “Tetris is a game with a very strong negative motivation. You never see what you have done very well, and your mistakes are seen on the screen. And you always want to correct them.” Pajitnov agreed. “What hits your eyes are your ugly mistakes. And that drives you to fix them all the time.” The game allows you the brief thrill of seeing your completed lines flash before they disappear, leaving only your mistakes. So you begin again, and try to complete another line as the game speeds up and your fingers are forced to dance across the controls more quickly.
Pajitnov and Kulagin were driven by this sense of mastery, which turns out to be deeply motivating. (c)
Q: Other studies have shown that we’re also driven to build more Legos when the completed products—the fruits of our Lego-building labor—are stacked up in front of us, rather than removed as soon as they’re completed. The sense of creating something that requires labor and effort and expertise is a major force behind addictive acts that might otherwise lose their sheen over time. It also highlights an insidious difference between substance addiction and behavioral addiction: where substance addictions are nakedly destructive, many behavioral addictions are quietly destructive acts wrapped in cloaks of creation. The illusion of progress will sustain you as you achieve high scores or acquire more followers or spend more time at work, and so you’ll struggle ever harder to shake the need to continue. (c)
Q: During the 1990s, psychologist Paco Underhill famously watched thousands of hours of retail store security camera footage. The cameras captured all sorts of shopping behavior, most of it mundane but some of it interesting and useful to the store owners who asked Underhill for help. One of Underhill’s most famous observations was the so-called butt-brush effect. In cluttered stores, where merchandise racks are placed only a few feet apart, customers are forced to squeeze past one another. Underhill’s footage captured hundreds of these unintentional butt-brushes, and he noticed an interesting pattern of behavior: as soon as women, and to a lesser extent men, were brushed, they tended to stop browsing and often left the store empty-handed. Butt-brushes were costing stores a lot of money, so he sent a team to investigate why. Were customers abandoning the store as an act of protest? Were they disgusted by the idea of touching a stranger? In fact, customers had absolutely no idea they were reacting to butt-brushes at all. They acknowledged leaving the store, but almost always said it had nothing to do with the presence of other shoppers. Sometimes they cobbled together good reasons for leaving—they were late for a meeting or needed to collect their kids from school—but the pattern was just too strong to deny. What Underhill had identified was a stopping rule—a cue that guided customers to stop shopping. The rule wasn’t something those customers could explain, but it was there, guiding their behavior all the same. (c)
Q: Zeigarnik’s career took off eventually, but her academic life was just as turbulent as her personal life. She was forced to write three doctoral dissertations after the Soviet authorities refused to recognize her first dissertation, and her second was stolen. She had copies of the second dissertation, but was forced to destroy them when she feared that the thief might publish her work and accuse her of plagiarism. For almost thirty years, Zeigarnik wandered in academic purgatory before completing her third dissertation and joining Moscow State University as a psychology professor in 1965. She was elected chair of the department two years later, and held that position for the next two decades, until her death. With mountainous talent and dogged determination, Zeigarnik ensured that the cliffhanger ultimately resolved in her favor. (c)
Q: “A few years ago, I hired a girl to slap me in the face every time I went on Facebook.” That worked well, for a while, ... (c)
Q: When you set your emails to auto-delete or your office to disappear, you’re acknowledging that you’re a different person when you’re tempted to check your email or work late. You may be an adult now, but this future version of you is more like a child. The best way to wrest control from your childish future self is to act while you’re still an adult—to design a world that coaxes, cajoles, or even compels your future-self to do the right thing. An alarm clock called SnŪzNLŪz illustrates this idea beautifully. SnŪzNLŪz is wirelessly connected to your bank account. Every time you hit the snooze button, it automatically deducts a preset sum and donates it to a charity you abhor. Support the Democratic Party? Hit snooze and you’ll donate ten dollars to the G.O.P. Support the Republican Party, and you’ll donate to the Democratic Party. These donations are your present self’s way of keeping your future self in line. (c)
Q: Behavioral architecture acknowledges that you can’t avoid temptation completely. Instead of abstinence and avoidance, many solutions come in the form of tools designed to blunt the psychological immediacy of addictive experiences. Benjamin Grosser, a web developer, devised one of these clever tools. Grosser explains on his website:
The Facebook interface is filled with numbers. These numbers, or metrics, measure and present our social value and activity, enumerating friends, likes, comments, and more. Facebook Demetricator is a web browser add-on that hides these metrics. No longer is the focus on how many friends you have or on how much they like your status, but on who they are and what they said. Friend counts disappear. “16 people like this” becomes “people like this.” Through changes like these, Demetricator invites Facebook’s users to try the system without the numbers, to see how their experience is changed by their absence. With this work I aim to disrupt the prescribed sociality these metrics produce, enabling a network society that isn’t dependent on quantification. (c)
Q: People flock when you turn a mundane experience into a game. (c)
Q: There are two ways to approach behavioral addictions: eliminate them or harness them. Elimination was the subject of the first eleven chapters of Irresistible, but—just as DDB did in Stockholm—it’s possible to channel the forces that drive harmful behavioral addiction for the good. The human tendencies that enslave us to smartphones, tablets, and video games also prepare us to do good: to eat better, exercise more, work smarter, behave more generously, and save more money. To be sure, there’s a fine line between behavioral addictions and helpful habits, and it’s important to keep that line in mind. The same Fitbit that fuels exercise addiction and eating disorders in some people pushes others to leave the couch behind during an hour of exercise. Addictive levers work by boosting motivation, so if your motivation is already high there’s a good chance those levers will compromise your well-being. If you’re a couch potato who hates to exercise, a dose of motivation can only help. (c)
Profile Image for Canadian Reader.
1,048 reviews4 followers
April 22, 2017
I read as far as the fifth chapter in Alter's book and learned a few interesting things along the way. However, based on what I did read, I found the book's subtitle inaccurate. Huge amounts of the first four chapters are dedicated to substance and behavioural addictions, in general, not "addictive technology" per se. There was interesting information about the importance of context or environment in addiction. Alter provides the example of veterans of the Vietnam war, many of whom used heroin while overseas but who did not return to the U.S. addicted, as they had now been removed from the context, conditions, and associations in which the drug use occurred. There was also some interesting material about behaviours (including repetitive actions known scientifically as "stereotypies") that accompany methamphetamine addictions and dopamine medications prescribed for Parkinson's disease. Some Parkinson's patients actually hoard their meds and even up their doses to ride on the wave of euphoria.

Alter writes well enough, mercifully resisting the temptation to describe the appearance or some idiosyncratic tic of the researchers he alludes to or quotes (so common in science and social science writing for a lay audience). He also refrains from supplying the often unnecessary "comic relief"used to jolly along nonfiction readers with short attention spans. In spite of the reasonably good writing, however, I just lost interest in the material. A fair bit of it I'd encountered before in other books or magazine feature articles, and when I got to a section about slot machines, my eyes were glazing over. I've never played the slots, so reading about them seemed like a very dull prospect.

For me, the take away was that tech designers spend huge amounts of time and money to make users find devices irresistible. Many of these designers don't use the products they or their companies design or produce. They are well aware of the addictive potential in their creations. That being the case, they often set very strict limits on their children's use of technology.
Profile Image for Ashley.
68 reviews60 followers
June 8, 2017
This is a gutless book.

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked purports to be an examination of contemporary media and their addictive qualities, yet very few of these pages explore any such ground. Rather, Alter parades psychological experiment after psychological experiment after psychological experiment, one after another, again and again, mice pressing levers to receive the orgasm drug, pigeons pecking buttons for food pellets, kittens kept in dark rooms before being put in cylinders with stripy patterns, and so on. The reader it seems, is left to draw her own conclusions.

Each time one of these laboratory escapades comes close to being compelling in the context of digital media, Alter swerves away, as if it was his mission to avoid saying anything the least bit original or interesting. The worst instance is with the (very brief) discussion of pornography. In 320 pages of text--about addictive tech, remember--pornography is allocated exactly two pages. And what's worse is these two pages serve only to prop up a half-baked rehash of Freudian theories of repression, in this case, about inhabitants of States of conservative persuasion being more inclined to open their browser for purposes of self-abuse than the good people of, say, Vermont. No mention whatsoever of the modern malaise resultant from constant and early exposure to literally anything you want. No mention of the ways addiction to pornography can compound addiction to digital technology. No mention of the tension between cerebral attempts at self-control and the reptilian brain stem and its unceasing demands. Instead, we merely get the banal (and predictable) observation that societal repression creates urgent needs for release.

Any discussion of violence and its appeal is totally absent. Alter discusses video game addiction, but only Tetris and World of Warcraft, and in the latter case, the mechanism of addiction is left untouched in favor of a tedious gloss of one individual's tendency to draw the blinds, give up all efforts to maintain personal hygiene, and play WoW for months on end. One wonders why Alter didn't here turn again to Freud and explore video games as an outlet for aggression. Indeed, leaving both sex and violence as aspects in digital technology addiction unexplored is unforgivable.

But, I have to concede, perhaps it's me who's the fool. I did, after all, go into this book looking for an intensive examination of where the hands have come to on the clock, and instead I got a pretty lousy pop-psychology book that offered little of value. I guess the blurb by Malcolm Gladwell on the cover should have given me a clue. But it's over now. /rant
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,660 followers
December 15, 2017
The book is redundant and boring and is oversold. It is not what it says it is. It's basically a review of a bunch of addictions and then it tacks on some doom and gloom about the internet. But it's not new science and there isn't much in the way of analysis or solutions. skip it
Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,108 reviews1,164 followers
June 7, 2018
This is a pop psych book that has its problems but still has interesting information to offer in an accessible package. I would change the subtitle to “The Rise of Behavioral Addiction in the Digital Age,” which more accurately describes the book’s contents. It is not all about screens – the author discusses exercise addiction frequently – and it is in no way an exposé of the tech industry, as the actual subtitle might lead you to believe. Rather than focusing on how companies suck people into their products, the author is focused on the nature of behavioral addiction itself, how it affects people, and the aspects of technology that most readily create addiction.

The book starts off by discussing behavioral addiction generally, whether it’s an addiction to email, social media, gaming, gambling, or exercise. Like chemical addiction, this is often something that fills a hole in a person’s life, and that the person comes to depend on to feel good (if the addiction is the only thing that causes the person’s brain to produce dopamine anymore) but that ultimately is detrimental to his or her life. The author then moves on to discuss elements that can make technology addictive:

1) Goals: Technology creates goals for us that we might not have formulated on our own, like walking a certain number of steps per day. This is especially true of exercise addictions. One dangerous idea is the Running Streak Association, which celebrates people who have run every day for a period of time (as in years or decades): people who didn’t want to lose their streak have gone so far as to run while the eye of a hurricane was passing over, or while injured or even in the hospital for a C-section.
2) Feedback: Games tell you how you’re doing and how close you are to your goals; when you post on social media or message boards, you can track how many people liked your post.
3) Progress: The author talks about the illusion of near wins and the fear of losing, but it seems to me that the illusion of actually accomplishing something is an especially addictive aspect to games and some social media, particularly for people who feel like they’re just spinning their wheels at work or otherwise.
4) Escalation: This is especially true of games; the game gets harder and you get better at it.
5) Cliffhangers: Discussed in the context of Netflix binges; people don’t like unfinished stories and loose ends. In fact, a story sticks out far more in our memories if we don’t hear the end.
6) Social interaction: Keeps people on social media, and playing social games like World of Warcraft.

All good to be aware of, but the book’s message tends to get a little muddled. The author talks about “the addict in all of us” and how the average office email sits unread in the recipient’s inbox only 6 seconds, but then writes at length about a World of Warcraft addict who played 20 hours a day for 5 weeks straight before committing himself to a detox clinic. Detailing such extreme examples tends to make everyday overuse seem like not such a big deal, and repeatedly returning to the clinic and its methodology throughout the book isn’t especially useful for people whose technology dependence doesn't rise to the level of requiring a residential treatment program.

Wearable fitness devices are criticized throughout the book for promoting addiction (an exercise addiction psychologist, who unsurprisingly sees the people who are damaged by them, is quoted as saying no one should use wearables ever). Then in the final pages the author acknowledges that a device meant to increase motivation to exercise is likely to be helpful for those who need motivation, though potentially dangerous to those who are already motivated. Given that according to his numbers that 61-67% of Americans, Brits, Germans, Australians and others are overweight, perhaps he shouldn’t have slammed the fitbits quite so hard.

But suddenly in the last chapter gamification is presented as a solution to everything, when the entire preceding book was about why game addiction is bad. Sure, FreeRice promotes learning and donates ad revenue to feed the hungry, but it’s still a virtual game that creates artificial goals and uses progress and escalation to keep people hooked. Suddenly that’s okay if it’s for a good cause? I thought the point was that we were supposed to try to disconnect and focus on more meaningful things? What is the point, exactly? There isn’t a cohesive thesis here so much as a variety of interviews, studies and observations around a general theme.

Still, that doesn’t necessarily make a bad book; it’s informative though lightweight and sometimes confused in its presentation. If nothing else, it will probably make you reflect on the role of technology in your life, which is a good thing to check in on every now and then.
Profile Image for David.
650 reviews302 followers
December 4, 2021
I wanted to like it more, but it's telling how it already feels dated having been published in 2017. It misses the ascendency of Twitter wielded by the former president of the United States, the sheer algorithmic power of TikTok to deliver an infinite scroll of short, personalized dopamine hits, the introduction of Meta as Mark Zuckerberg wrestles with how to hook a new generation of users as its Facebook base ages out. And all of this in the midst of a pandemic where we find ourselves increasingly online. Where parents, finding no other recourse, increasingly submit to relying on screens to occupy their children. Where children see little difference between their parents working hours, staring at a screen, and their off hours staring at another screen. The Internet in the midst of a pandemic becomes a human right, an absolute necessity. Irresistible become irreplaceable.

Still, there are fun little digressions into the history of Tetris, Steve Jobs' luddite tendencies when it came to his kids and Freud's obsession with cocaine. I would however like a word with the monsters that purposely induced visual amblyopia in kittens, permanently pickling their visual cortex.
Profile Image for Tara Brabazon.
Author 23 books324 followers
February 6, 2017
This book is absolutely, astoundingly, brain-dripping-out-of-my-ear, dreadful. Once more, a 'researcher' explores digital media and - with little evidence and a lot of hyperbole - locates "The addict in all of us." Supposedly, online pornography, gaming and mobile phones have made 'all of us' addicts.

There is no understanding of the sociology of the internet, footnotes - or even in-text referencing - is absent. The randomness is infuriating. The binge watching of Breaking Bad on Netflix is compared to the governmental phrasing of organ donation.

No. I can't believe it either.
Profile Image for Atila Iamarino.
411 reviews4,362 followers
July 16, 2017
Uma ótima análise do que torna muitas tecnologias viciantes. Alter começa o livro explicando sobre vício (por causa dele me interessei pelo The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease), para em seguida passar por como cada tecnologia desperta eles. Como redes sociais, por exemplo, estão todos os dias rodando testes A/B justamente para aumentar nossa retenção nas plataformas. E como praticamente qualquer CEO das empresas de tecnologia não deixam os filhos chegarem perto de celulares, tablets e redes sociais tão cedo.

Em especial a explicação sobre como funcionam os gatilhos de expectativa – fim do episódio em um cliffhanger, missão no jogo nas próximas x horas, notificações – e como funcionam as pequenas metas que tornam tudo mais viciante. A explicação dele sobre jogos como Candy Crush, cheios de luzes, sons, gatilhos e pequenas recompensas é excelente. Excelente inclusive para não chegar perto de um.

Aliás, a parte toda de games é bem resumida aqui:
Profile Image for Dolly.
Author 3 books229 followers
December 31, 2017
This book is essential reading. I can't stop thinking about it or talking about it. I particularly appreciate the way the book breaks down what appears to be a wild lack of willpower (I'm looking at myself!) into its component parts of behavioral addiction. I am thinking differently about the consequences of my screen time (and my children's) and about the approaches I take to curb my excess. Well-written, well-researched, well-timed. I will be giving out many copies of this book to family and friends!
Profile Image for Kat ❅.
861 reviews72 followers
January 31, 2020
A really interesting yet short read about how technology has changed to keep us hooked as the technology has become more mobile and ever present in our lives.

I wanted to read this book because recently I have been trying to step away from my phone more and be off the internet more because I have found it to stress me out. I recently deleted Instagram, which is the only social media I had. It is a decision that I have not regretted for a moment. I thought this book may help me flesh out ideas of why being on the internet and being on social media was so stressful for me.

This book did help with that by covering a broad range of topics under the umbrella of behavioral addiction. It focused a little more on gaming that I would have liked just because I don't play really any sort of video game. I wish there had been a bit more focus on social media behavior because that is what I have found most addiction when it comes to technology. I also really liked the section on raising children because its a topic I think about a lot when think about my childhood and how important offline play was for my growth and how different it might be growing up today.

I do wish the author had acknowledged a bit more how hard it is socially to be disconnected for days at a time. It was brought up how ubiquitous technology is but people who took days to answer emails or phone calls were spoken of fondly without the author ever really acknowledging that not everyone's job allows them to disconnect like that. Many jobs have a requirement that emails are responded to within 24 hours so many people cannot afford to just turn off email notifications. I think it would have been good to acknowledge that unplugging like that can be the hardest for the people making the least amount of money and the people who can least afford to lose their job over a missed phone call or unanswered email.

I think if this is a topic you're interested in, I would recommend this book. It isn't overly preachy about the dangerous of technology and it doesn't tell you never to use your phone. Not all the information was new to me but this book does help to flesh out how technology has been designed to become more and more addictive and how users are studied to make it a product as addictive as possible.

Also! not about this book but I've now read 15 books in January! I'm particularly excited about this because last year I read 30 books the whole year and right now I'm already halfway to that in just one month. Even though I think this will slow down now that I'm back in school I'm hoping to read many more books this year and I hope I will enjoy a lot of them!
Profile Image for Salem.
231 reviews5 followers
November 29, 2018

الكتاب الصوتي الرابع في هذا العام ✔✔✔✔
مما نقمته على كتاب "الماجريات" لإبراهيم السكران -فرج الله عنه- تطرقه لموضوع الإدمان الشبكي على عجل وبلا توسع. فبحثت عن كتاب يتناول هذا الموضوع بتفصيل أكبر. لم أجد بالمكتبة العربية ما يشفي الغليل، ولكن لحسن حظي وجدت فيديو على منصة تيد عن هذا الموضوع
ومن ثم عرفت أن للمتحدث - وهو متخصص بعلم النفس - كتاب في نفس القضية، وهكذا التقيت بذا الكتاب.
المقدمة اشتملت على حقائق غريبة وصادمة، مثل أن كثير من حيتان صناعة التكنولوجيا لهم مواقف مضادة من سيطرة التقنيات الجديدة على حياتنا اليومية. المثال الذي ضربه المؤلف هو ستيف جوبز وكيف كان يمنع ابنته من استعمال جديد الأجهزة التي يصنعها هو بنفسه في شركة أبل. تلى ذلك سرد لبعض الاحصائيات عن متوسط الوقت الذي نقضيه على الانترنت وشبكات التواصل. وإن لم تخني الذاكرة، ذكر المؤلف أن الأمريكان يقضون أربع ساعات على هواتفهم كل يوم! أتدركون ما يعنيه هذا الرقم؟ أي أن ثلث يوم الفرد الأمريكي يمر وهو متسمر أمام هذه الشاشات ! ونحن لن نكون بأحسن حالاً منهم !
يا ضيعة الأعمار !

أتت الفصول الأولى تعريفاً بالإدمان عامة، والسلوكيات الإدمانية -ومنها إدمان الانترنت بالطبع - خاصة، وتطور هذا التعريف بالقرون الماضية، و تبيين أن الإدمان السلوكي لايقل خطراً عن إدمان المواد المخدرة، وأن دواعيهما و آثارهما متقاربة إلى حد بعيد.

أما البقية الغالبة من فصول الكتاب جاءت لعرض الاستراتيجات التي تستعملها شركات التقنية لجعل منتاجتهم ومواقعهم أكثر قابلية للإدمان، وكما تعلمون، المدمن معتمد على ما أدمن عليه، وهذه الاعتمادية هي عين ما تريده هذه الشركات. طبعا المؤلف مشكوراً لم يكتف بعرض استراتيجياتهم بل بيّن الدوافع النفسية، والتي تجعل وقوعنا ضحية لفخاخ هذه الشركات أمرا محتما، وما يمكننا فعله لتجنب ذلك، أو تقليل تأثيره على الأقل.

الحقيقة التامة الوضوح أنه لا يمكنننا أن نكون منتجين وفاعلين في حياتنا، ونحن نقضي الساعات تلو الساعات محبوسي الإرادة أمام هذه الأجهزة والتقنيات. ولا نحن اللذين نستطيع الاستغناء عنها في الوقت نفسه ... فما الحل إذن؟
للأسف الكاتب لم يقدم حلول عملية، وكل ما ذكره من حلول لهذه القضية إما أنه معروف بالضرورة، مثل إبعاد الجوال عن مكان العمل/الدراسة، وأهمية تطوير هوايات شخصية تشغل وقت فراغنا...إلخ، أو صعب التطبيق كتغيير بنية المجتمع لتكون أقل تمركزاً واعتمادية على التقنية
بالختام، الكتاب حافل بالمعلومات والنظريات والتجارب، وأرشحه لكل من له اهتمام بقضية إدمان الانترنت وعلم النفس والسلوك عامة، بشرط أن يجيد الإنجليزية؛ لأن الكتاب لم يترجم بعد.
Profile Image for Hank.
29 reviews1 follower
May 19, 2017
It's hard to say that I enjoyed this book, because it is disturbing, depressing, and sad...but I loved it and enjoyed reading it so much. Irresistible was so informative, providing a great context for the world we live in and the one we're on our way to living in. I so appreciate having the curtain pulled back on behavioral addiction, especially how it relates to social media, gaming, and virtual reality. I feel like I can make better decisions for myself and kids regarding technology, preparing them for the future, as well as instilling values in them that will help them navigate a world filled with people who are more and more disconnected from themselves and each other. Overall a worthwhile read. The question for me is: what do we do now that we know how the sausage is made?
Profile Image for suzie.
164 reviews51 followers
July 7, 2021
Adam Alter《欲罷不能:科技如何讓我們上癮?滑個不停的手指是否還有藥醫!》

❏ 書籍簡介(節錄)

❏ 閱讀契機
一樣是因為readmoo商管馬拉松 + 出版順序。

❏ 讀後感
看完書以後,覺得副標題有點太強調手機了XD 《欲罷不能》的主題是「成癮」,成癮又分成「物質成癮」跟「行為成癮」,這本的重點是後者。


❝ 運用體力、精神與專長創造出一個東西,這種成就感是成癮行為的要素,少了這個要素,這種行為就會隨著時間而失去魅力。這也凸顯出物質成癮與行為成癮之間的幽微區別:物質成癮的傷害性一目瞭然,但許多行為成癮披著創造力的外衣,實質上卻具有傷害性。當你得到高分、擁有更多粉絲或花更多時間工作時,這些進展帶來的假象會支持你繼續做下去。反過來說,當你不想繼續做時,你的掙扎與糾結也會更加嚴重。 ❞ (第七章〈升級〉)

看到這一段覺得「披著創造力的外衣,實質上卻具有傷害性」這句話真是一針見血XD 也讓我停下來問自己:驅使我分享的動力是什麼?跟之前的答案一樣嗎?



還好讀墨有設計最高等級的上限XD 謝謝讀墨 🙏

❏ 出版資訊
Irresistible : The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked

作者:亞當.奧特 Adam Alter
出版社:天下文化 @cwgvtaiwan

🛒 讀墨電子書AP連結:
Profile Image for Cyrus Carter.
137 reviews22 followers
October 12, 2017
Excellent overview of addiction itself. No, there is no "addictive personality" but rather we are all susceptible to addiction. Environment, marketing and our own desire to take the easy road play into it. An excellent read for anyone who wants to understand addiction and our willingness to give in. Especially with technology. You know who you are ...
Profile Image for Sarthak Pranit.
108 reviews62 followers
March 21, 2017
A clear a crisp attack on Hooked by Nir Eyal.

I picked this book aiming to help me in my own addition towards technology - so yes, I had an agenda. But this beauty really entertained me with some astounding data and a focussed extrapolation of what might become of us if we continue.

'Man's evolution has been hand-in-hand with it's desire to be lazy' - this is a depressing yet awakening fact that we need to realize. As much as people might misuse, abuse or overuse the term 'innovation', it is just a fancy word for us spending less energy to get something done. And our relentless attempt at it, might be the ruin of us.

What this book helped me with - habits that has reduced my online time drastically. For example -
1. I have allotted thinking times during which my phone and laptop automatically switch off (IFTTT rocks).
2. I now sleep with my phone in the drawing room and instead take my kindle with me.
3. I have a porn blocker which i haven't disabled for over two weeks.
4. I now have started reading less listicles and more essays.
5. And the best of them all, I have developed a habit to run.

Now all this are a result of my reflection on using products that were made to hook me. It raised the question of rethinking my own set of ethics when I design a product or feature of a product which is often the last thing startups think about - success metrics in companies are now ones like Minutes on Page, Conversion, Retention, etc, which, cumulatively, is just distracting the customer.

So if you are someone who ever has, is or planning to make a product for consumers - do give this book a read.
Profile Image for Squibart.
357 reviews9 followers
July 30, 2017
Think about this: The people who create the devices do not let their children play them. The people who create the games we love get addicted to playing them. Our brains betray us everyday by allowing big businesses to use us like rats in a maze to get rich. If those ideas concern you, then read this book. This book was well written and interesting. I appreciated how the author added many interesting tidbits about games, the people who created them, and some history about how they were created. Often this type of book is only read by the people who live with someone that may need help for an addiction, but not the person with the issue themselves. After all, who wants to read a preachy book just pointing out all your faults that tells you to change? However, the way the author put this together I can see gamers actually liking this book especially if they enjoy Tetris, world of Warcraft, or Nintendo. Anyone who likes to read about psychology and behavioral tendencies will also enjoy this. The human mind is a trap in itself and it's fascinating to see how we are all really wired to respond in similar ways. I felt the ending of this book was weak as the author seemed unwilling to commit to any type of of true belief about gaming one way or another. After all the information that it provided, I found that disappointing because if I did have a gaming issue I now just got permission to take it less seriously. I do think this is another good read for parents as it gives good reasons for keeping devices out of little hands.
Profile Image for Louise.
929 reviews288 followers
January 20, 2020
This was a really great read from the library. The beginning was slow because it goes into the history of addiction from a psychology perspective, but it picked up a quarter of the way in. As someone who has a love/hate relationship with technology, I could relate to the addictiveness of devices and apps. I enjoyed the origin stories of some of the most addictive games and apps, as well as some of the experiments described.

Even though I try to stay away from pop-psychology books and I thought this would be in the same vein, I was pleasantly surprised at how informative this one was. I couldn't help feeling paranoid about if the author employed any of the tactics he researched to make this book more addictive to read.
Profile Image for Rick.
847 reviews17 followers
April 27, 2017
For anyone who has checked messages on a smart phone more than 4 times a day this book is for you. For anyone who has spent more than 2 hours a day in front of a computer screen this book is for you. For anyone who has played a video game or an internet game for more than one hour a day this book is for you. For the rest of us this book is a caution, and is quite informative.
575 reviews10 followers
April 8, 2017
Note: the author is a friend and former colleague.

4.5 stars. Like Alter, I study the psychology of human decision making (I'm getting a PhD; I went to undergrad where and when Alter got his PhD, which is how we know each other). The further I get into my studies, the harder of a time I have reviewing popular treatments of the field, because so much of the research presented is often review for me. That's less the case here than with other popular psych books I've read recently, though, because I haven't studied addictions very much and am not very well versed in technology. So this was in some ways a refreshing change for me, a pop-psych book where I was learning right along with the lay audience.

Alter makes a compelling and sobering case for the ubiquity of at least mild technology addiction, situating the conversation within the broader field of behavioral addiction. There's some nicely-presented, concise history of addictions both chemical and behavioral to set the scene. The technology-specific parts focus mostly on games (with which Alter candidly discusses his own past problems, as well as movingly portraying others' struggles), social media, and shopping.

The science is solid and informative, but there's also a somewhat unusual (for a book by an academic, not for pop-psych writers generally) amount of practical advice. As someone with an admitted smartphone use problem (even with that admission, the statistics in this book were sobering and forced me to admit the problem was worse than I thought), I really appreciated the recommendations (the tracking app he mentions, Moment, has already helped me make some positive changes after just a week). I'm reevaluating the way I look at games and apps, and will keep my eyes open in future for ones that seem to foster addictive behavior. Though this and other subjects are heavy, Alter also takes care to include some light, amusing or positive examples. For example, while learning what might make games addictive, I also learned more detail about, and developed more appreciation for, what makes a game good and immersive. The section on gamification for positive purposes was also an antidote to some of the gloom in the book, but I think including some more examples of harnessing "addiction " for good throughout the book, rather than just at the end might have helped attenuate the flashes of overly dramatic tone that sometimes popped up (mostly I thought the tone was appropriate given the subject matter).

In addition to the sometimes top-dramatic tone, my main problem with the book was organizational. Alter's first book, DRUNK TANK PINK, was great in terms of signposting things, asking one or two questions at the end of each chapter that would be answered in the next one, etc. This book is not quite as well or intuitively organized. This is probably because there are so many different topics, and historical information about each.

Apart from these minor issues, I thought the book was great, both informative about the general issues of technology and behavioral addiction (and, to a lesser extent, addiction in general and technology in general) and full of great suggestions for dealing with technology, without coming across as too preachy or too much like a stereotypical self-help book. Even apart from knowing the author, I'm really glad to have read this book, because I learned a lot of interesting information and some really helpful things as well.

Format note: I listened to the Audible audiobook, which Alter narrates. He does a very good job (much better than most authors who try to read their own work) and I highly recommend listening. It doesn't seem from the text like there are many things in the print book that you'd miss (e.g., pictures, charts or graphs).
Profile Image for Thomas.
Author 1 book7 followers
April 4, 2017
Page turner. After reading this book, I no longer look at my phone, iPad, or computer within two hours of sleep. Irresistible explores the concept of behavioral addiction defined as a dysfunctional attachment to an experience that is harmful and that a person cannot extinguish.
I learned some cultural facts in this book.
Examples are the genius of the "Like" button on Facebook. Did you know that slot machines are the premier addiction delivery service? Who would believe that Kim Kardashian has "earned" tens of millions of dollars from her video game Hollywood? There is even a whole page devoted to the force behind the addictive popularity of Earth, Wind and Fire's 1978 hit record - September.
There is even a term- gamification that describes the rapidly expanding practice of morphing health practices, or even lawn mowing services into quasi games where the user earns points , badges, and levels.
Less you think that this is overstating the case, consider the fact that we're all in the game right now. Our salaries, seniority and promotions are only points, levels, and badges in disguise.
At least outright gaming calls it like it is.
Nevertheless, this is a must read. The book inspired me to I install an app on my phone that lets me track my phone usage. So far, I have it down to just 2 hours and 45 minutes a day. I'm gaining back my life, but I am also hooked.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ren (A Bookish Balance).
816 reviews94 followers
April 10, 2020
3.25/5 stars

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked is a non-fiction novel exploring what causes individuals to become addicted to screens, how this addiction effects their lives, and what can be done to prevent these additions or deal with them.

I’d argue that Irresistible is more a novel that focuses on what addictive behaviour is and how its dealt with, screens just seem to be the main example used in the novel. There are a lot of interesting points made in this novel and well as some great discussion had on how this is a problem today, and what we can do about it. I personally feel motivated to change some of my own behaviours in regards to technology after reading this, and I really do feel that that is the major benefit of reading this novel. If this is at all interesting to you, I highly recommend checking it out as it is a quick read that I think everyone who uses a smartphone should pick up.

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Profile Image for Andreea Chiuaru.
Author 1 book763 followers
July 7, 2018
Există cărți care pot schimba felul în care privești viața dacă le dai voie să facă asta. Doar că trebuie să aștepți momentul potrivit și să ai deschiderea necesară. Când am citit prima carte despre dependențele comportamentele („Puterea obișnuinței”, tot de la Publica) am tras de mine să o termin. „Irezistibil” am devorat-o. Rar devorez așa cărți de non-ficțiune. Mi-a trebuit un an să o încep, ce-i drept. Dar acum mă uit diferit la mine și la obiceiurile (sau dependențele mele). Și chiar dacă ar fi fost și alte lucruri pe care aș fi vrut să le aflu din cartea asta (pentru că nu m-am regăsit neapărat în porțiunea mare dedicată dependeței de jocuri), pot să spun că e genul de lectură care mi-a schimbat viața. E un rating pur subiectiv, la fel ca toate de aici. Pentru că nu vreau să vorbesc despre carte, ci despre impactul pe care l-a avut asupra mea. Recomand, dar doar la momentul potrivit. Oricare ați simți voi că e acela.
Profile Image for Darnell.
1,054 reviews
May 9, 2018
I mostly enjoyed this book, but can't recommend it very much. It falls into that category of nonfiction where the author repeatedly throws research and factoids at the reader without adding very much value - there are some good pieces, but it's not the best nonfiction. The theme of the book is loose, more a container for a bunch of research, not a grand thesis.
Profile Image for Brittany.
366 reviews14 followers
June 24, 2017
SOOOOO FASCINATING! I love learning about how things work, so this book was perfect!!! I loved every part of it.
Profile Image for Camelia Rose.
634 reviews84 followers
December 8, 2018
There is a reason that Silicon Valley CEOs restrict their kids to use technologies they invented. As a mother and an engineer who makes money by building (hopefully) addictive software, I know perfectly well what that reason is.

This book is a summary of what and how modern technologies fuel addictive behaviour. We are in an epidemic behaviour addiction—Internet, gaming, gambling, shopping, fitness addiction, eating disorder, work addiction—you name it. Any activity can become addictive. It will only get worse— think VR, which is what called the potential legal heroin by the author.

The book starts with basics of how addiction works. Behaviour addiction works the same way as substance abuse. I have read other books about addiction, so this part is not new to me. Addictive behaviours take advantages of the same pleasure centre and reward system of the brain. Behind addiction there is always unfulfilled psychological needs, and the mind learns to associate the behaviour in question with the stress release. Addiction is a social issue and a medical issue.

The second part of the book is analysis of several behaviour addictions and why they are addictive by human design. This is the most interesting part.

Topics covered are:

1. Gambling: why gamblers hard to quit? Why slot machine is addictive?
2. Video games: how popular games are designed to make players keep playing, and the human psychology behind the game design. Games analysed: Super Mario, World of Warcraft, Tetris, Kardashian Hollywood, Mobile games such as FarmVille, candy crush
3. Shopping addiction: online flash sale business model (Gilt)
4. Penny auction site, which is a mixture of shopping and gambling
5. Social Media addiction: facebook’s like button
6. Why Netfix’s autoplay leads to binge watching
7. Why wearable fitness device lead to fitness addiction

Some insights:
1. Ludic loop in gaming is addictive because it gives you reward once in a while
2. Near win is always better than win in motivation; it makes players continue in order to ease the disappointment. When rewards unpredictable, players enjoy them more
3. Video game design: constant small rewards; easy to start; music to make you continue; gradual increase of difficulties, and the art of finding the sweet spot of the best difficulties: not too easy so you get bored, not to difficult so you get frustrated.
4. Tension created by not finishing a task makes you want more
5. Our brain is wired to seek shortcut and the easy way out, therefore the importance of asking the right question: opt in or opt out?
6. Goal setting: goals are important drive in motivation; however, using arbitrary number as goals can lead to the forgetting of the the reason of goals.

The author answered the question of why social media is harmful to kids:

Danger of social media addiction is not what it can provide, but what it can not provide: face to face communication, the ability to deep connect with a real person in real time. Social media is only a shallow version of real world socialisation. It stops children to learn from reading each other’s facial clues, clues from the tones and body language. Even video conference can’t be the same.

Nothing wrong with making friends online, as long as you also make friends offline.

In Part 3 the author offers some solutions to the ever growing problem of behaviour addiction. I am disappointed that available solutions are very limited, but that’s the situation we are in now. The best option we have is to delay the introduction of smartphones and limit the usage of internet and gaming in kids. How lame!

The author mentioned a clinic named reSTART in Seattle that treat internet addiction.

The author also discussed the pros and cons of Gamification in education.

We can’t go back to the age before Internet, before Google, and before smart phones, or can we?

Two things I disagree with the author:
1. The so-called Internet Addiction Treatment camps in China are notorious, where adolescents are held against their will and are forced to go through shock therapy, military style trainings and physical tortures. The author visited one of such centres in Beijing. He generally disagreed with such treatments, but he did not condemn the practice.
2. Whether our risk seeking genes came from Neanderthals is debatable.
Profile Image for Allison.
Author 1 book76 followers
June 13, 2017
Originally reviewed at The Book Wheel.

Like most people I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love waking up in the mornings and checking my Twitter feed and the news but I hate how the distraction can make me run late. I love the satisfaction of hitting my step goals but I hate that I feel compelled to log what I eat. I love being connected to other people but I hate the guilt that comes with not responding to something right away. 

These situations are not unique to me but that doesn’t mean it has any less of a personal impact. Technology, for all of its benefits, has a lot of drawbacks which have been studied more and more over the past several years. Parents who live a distracted life tend to foster that distraction in their own children. Always looking for the next like or favorite on social media can impact self-esteem. And let’s not forget that screen time can interfere with concentration, productivity, and even our sleep. 

We know these things, yet we continue to incorporate more and more technology into our lives, myself included. So why do we do it?

Irresistible by Adam Alter takes a fresh look at how technology impacts our daily lives and why we let it happen. While he covers the more popular subjects that were mentioned above, he also delves into the psychology and biology behind our obsession and how anyone can fall victim to it. Using approachable and practical examples that everyone can relate to, Alter analyzes how outside forces and our own biology help foster the love/hate relationship. From games and apps designed to keep us hooked to the constant elevated heart rate that checking our work emails creates, he covers the spectrum of our obsession and shines a light in how even the most self-aware user often ignores the warning signs. 

There are plenty of articles online about how to step away from the Internet and connectivity, but doing so can do a lot more for your health than just improve your state of mind. For example, the average person checks their work email 36 times an hour and opens it within six seconds. What does this mean for productivity when it takes up to 25 minutes to get back to productivity in the first place? Imagine what we could accomplish if we just turned our notifications off.

And what about wearables? After reading this book, I stopped wearing my FitBit because I realized I would pace my house at 11 PM in order to hit my step goals. It was tough at first because I like accomplishing things and those little green stars are very rewarding, but in hindsight I see how it was interfering with my sleep because I was elevating my heart rate before going to bed. 

Technology is amazing, and Alter does not advocate for giving it up, rather using it more responsibly and being aware of how you, personally, react to it. If you find yourself ignoring your own health for the benefit of a step goal, then it’s time to step away. If you find yourself ignoring your children because you want to check Facebook, then it’s time to step away. The repercussions of not doing so go far beyond our personal mental well-being and can impact our health, our relationships, and more. So while I may not be giving up my cell phone anytime soon, I am taking steps to rely on it less. After all, my health relies on it.

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