Building Technology Awareness to Recondition our Brains
1904, the psychologist Ivan Pavlov won the Nobel Prize for his work, becoming
the first Russian Nobel laureate. He was best known for his research on
principles of classical conditioning. One example of his research
demonstrated that if someone were to consistently ring a bell before meals are
served, subjects would be conditioned to associate the sound of the bell with
Fast forward more than a hundred years, and imagine what Pavlov would think about smartphones. Instead of communication tools, he might consider that these gadgets were designed to manipulate our brains with sounds and vibrations!
But it’s Pavlov’s original research that may also provide clues for overcoming today’s smartphone addictions. When we hear that ring or feel the vibration, dopamine levels in the brain increase and over time, we are conditioned to respond. That may be why most people check their smartphones, on average, more than fifty times per day. But it’s also why it’s so important to have opportunities to break this cycle—dedicated times away from the ring tones and vibrations that allow us to pause and create greater awareness around this conditioned response.
In past EducationUV posts, I’ve written about the growing number of doctors and psychologists who are concerned about our children’s relationships with these devices. And I recently came across Michael Rich's work, which is particularly pertinent. Dr. Rich is a pediatrician and the director of the Center on Media and Child Health. He noted that unplugged downtime doesn’t get the emphasis it deserves. “We have to be very careful, particularly around the brain development period, but I think throughout childhood, that we’re not so busy stimulating these kids that they don’t have any downtime in their brains. The mind needs time to wander, and the mind needs boredom, basically, to work well. Both to do maintenance, but also to do the kind of free-form creative thinking that none of these activities let you do.“
course, smartphone technology is not going away anytime soon. But being
conscious of what Pavlov observed in the early twentieth century and then taking conscious breaks from
technology may help us find a happy medium—one that will allow us to reclaim our time and in the process,
recondition our brains.