psychology | March 07, 2017

Adam Alter’s Irresistible Is Now Available: Here’s What People Are Saying

We can’t get enough positive feedback, says social psychologist Adam Alter. Technology, the Internet, and the attractions contained therein provide a powerful—even addictive—grip upon us. 

Whether it’s an iPad, Kindle, or Galaxy S8, all of us have a weapon of choice. The question is, at what point does it become less about choosing? In Irresistible, follow-up to the New York Times bestselling Drunk Tank Pink, Adam Alter airs the fascinating facts around just how much time we spend suctioned to our various devices. A prime example of our craving for positive feedback can be seen in a child's love of buttons, says Alter. He begins one chapter, excerpted in The Guardian, with a story about  stepping into an elevator to discover that the happy child standing with his embarrassed mother had pushed the buttons, all 18 of them, already.


“From a young age,” he explains, “Humans are driven to learn, and learning involves getting as much feedback as possible from the immediate environment. The toddler who shared my elevator was grinning because feedbackin the form of lights or sounds or any change in the state of the worldis pleasurable.”


Adam Alter: The Joy of Pushing Buttons


Feedback in and of itself isn’t addictive, but certain tech creators have developed systems by which they can easily nourish compulsive interactions. “Anything, he says, can be addictive,” writes The Washington Post on Irresistible.  “It comes down to its role in your life. If your actions come to fulfill a deep need, you can’t do without them, and you begin to pursue them while neglecting other aspects of your life, then you’ve developed a behavioral addiction.” 

In Irresistible, Alter explains how what might’ve started out as an accidental effect of certain technologies soon became leveraged by tech creators to encourage repeat use. “Alter...wants to show us how smartphones, Netflix, and online games such as World of Warcraft are exquisitely and expensively engineered to hook us in,” says The Guardian.


We can push back, and it begins by looking at our devices as objects engineered to provide unpredictable feedback. Knowing that, says Alter, gives us a clearer understanding of why we behave the way we do.

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked comes out on Tuesday March 7th from  Penguin Random House.


To book Adam Alter as the keynote speaker of your organization’s next conference or event, contact The Lavin Agency, his exclusive speakers bureau.

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