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Silicon Valley 'Brain Hacking' Makes Smartphones Addictive


SAN JOSE (KCBS) -- Turns out your smartphone addiction is no accident.

In a story that aired on "60 Minutes" Sunday night, former Google product manager Tristan Harris said Silicon Valley is deliberately engineering phones, apps and social media to get us hooked.

Harris said parents might not realize what cell phones are doing to their kids' brains.

"I think this is really important. Because there's a narrative that, 'Oh, I guess they're just doing this like we used to gossip on the phone,' but what this misses is that your telephone in the 1970s didn't have a thousand engineers on the other side of the telephone who were redesigning it to work with other telephones and then updating the way your telephone worked every day to be more and more persuasive. That was not true in the 1970s," Harris said.

Larry Rosen, a psychologist with California State University Dominguez Hills, heads up a team researching technology's effect on our brains.

Rosen isn't mincing words. he calls it "brain hacking" and says it works by boosting anxiety levels.

He says when we put our phones down, the brain signals the adrenal gland to produce a burst of cortisol - which triggers a "flight or fight" response. To relieve the feeling - we keep checking our phones.

The research from Rosen and his colleagues suggest our phones keep us in a continual state of anxiety, in which the only antidote is the phone itself.


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