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Smartphones and Skinner Boxes

Based on the rising sales of smartphones in a down economy, it would appear as though a critical mass of Americans are now psychologically and socially prepared to immerse into the age of persistent connectivity.

According to David E. Meyer, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, who was interviewed by Steve Lohr for an article in last Tuesday's New York Times,

The social norm is that you should respond within a couple of hours, if not immediately. If you don’t, it is assumed you are out to lunch mentally, out of it socially, or don’t like the person who sent the e-mail.
Meyer goes on to liken the effect of the smartphone to that of a Skinner box.

Three's no doubt that information is a form of food to humans. We're wired to process large amounts of stimuli simultaneously from our five senses, find patterns in it, and form a coherent narrative from the patterns we perceive. By stimulating three of those senses—the eye, the ear, the touch—smartphones offer some tasty morsels. It's up to us what degree we gorge ourselves on them.

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