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 Post subject: Highway Dangers
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:02 pm 
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Your cell phone is controlling you.

How and why you get programmed:
Quote:
It seems clear something powerful is at work, overriding people’s knowledge that what they’re doing behind the wheel is dangerous. To figure out what that something might be, psychology and communications researchers around the world have started studying what exactly is happening in our heads when we reach for a phone in the car.

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 Post subject: Re: Highway Dangers
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:06 pm 
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It’s not like the judgment error of drinking too much and deciding to drive home anyway; it’s not like neglecting to put on your seat belt. That’s because at the center of the problem, the experts say, is an entirely new kind of object—the modern smartphone—that has become embedded in our consciousness in a way that’s changing our behavior on a massive scale.

In this light, the deadly phenomenon of texting and driving is just one manifestation of a broader affliction facing society:

Our phones have effectively programmed us with new habits, including a powerful urge to pull them out when we’re not supposed to. That urge—to check our e-mail, to glance at Facebook, to see who just texted us—can be as intense when we’re standing in line or at dinner with our families as it is when we’re driving a car. But it’s only in a car that resisting it becomes a matter of life and death.

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 Post subject: Re: Highway Dangers
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:07 pm 
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In order to fight the problem, we need to understand how that urge works—and acknowledge that merely telling people texting and driving is dangerous, and punishing them for doing it, might not be enough.

“You have to start with the question of why it happens,” said Scott Campbell, a communications professor at the University of Michigan who studies compulsive cellphone use. “Once you have a grasp on why it happens, then you can start to attack the actual mechanisms that lead to the behavior. Without that, you’re just experimenting.”

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 Post subject: Re: Highway Dangers
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:08 pm 
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Driving is hard. A lot can go wrong as you operate a two-ton vehicle in a parking lot, never mind at highway speed. Not surprisingly, paying attention to a small computer at the same time makes it much more likely you’ll mess up. And while sending or reading a text message might only take a few seconds, that can be an eternity when you consider how little time it takes for a child to run into the street or for traffic to suddenly slow in front of you. In a car, getting distracted even briefly can be catastrophic: In 2011, official reports listed 387,000 people injured and 3,331 people killed as a result of distracted driving.

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 Post subject: Re: Highway Dangers
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:10 pm 
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The remedy seems simple: Drivers should just decide to ignore their phones in the car. But as cellphone researchers look more deeply into the practice, they are concluding that decision-making may only be part of the story. For many people, they say, using a smartphone may be less a decision than a habit—a move they make without initially thinking about what they are doing or why.

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 Post subject: Re: Highway Dangers
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:12 pm 
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Habits form when we do something so often that it becomes automatic, sometimes even compulsive or involuntary. Researchers who study the psychology of habit formation are finding that for many people, cellphone use fits this category perfectly. In a recent paper, researchers reported the results of an experiment in which 136 test subjects were given smartphones equipped with software that kept track of their usage for six weeks.

The subjects pulled out their devices for very brief periods up to 60 times per day, according to lead author Antti Oulasvirta, a senior researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, and tended to interact with them in ways that met several definitions of habitual behavior.

In diary entries, subjects indicated they were moved to pull up certain applications under the same circumstances over and over: Those who repeatedly checked their e-mail or looked at the news, for instance, said they consistently did so when they got bored
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 Post subject: Re: Highway Dangers
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:14 pm 
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The tricky thing about fighting habitual behavior is that the brain’s ability to form habits is actually one of its strengths.

A habit is a powerful shortcut that helps us stay more productive: If we learn to react automatically to things in our environment, we preserve mental energy for the harder decisions. You don’t want to have to think about it every time you turn out the lights and lock the front door in the morning.


Think of this as the ramifications on the way we train.

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 Post subject: Re: Highway Dangers
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:16 pm 
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Phones, however, may hold a power over our habitual behavior that we haven’t fully appreciated yet. Psychologists believe habits tend to revolve around triggers: Trundling down the stairwell of a T station, we pull out our Charlie Cards; settling into our desks at work, we automatically check for messages.

But Campbell and Bayer, as well as other researchers who have looked closely at the way we use our mobile phones, say the habits people form around the “everything boxes” in our pockets are fundamentally different:

Because we use them in so many different situations, and to accomplish so many different tasks, we develop a vast range of triggers and cues associated with pulling them out and looking at them.

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 Post subject: Re: Highway Dangers
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:17 pm 
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These triggers can be quite basic—the phone ringing or buzzing with a message—and they can come from inside as well as out. One’s desire to reach for the phone might be rooted in complex emotions like loneliness and curiosity, for instance.

Humans crave resolution, and smartphones offer it: It’s hard to resist seeing whether a crush has texted back, or a co-worker has sent a reply to a crucial e-mail. By connecting us to everybody we know, all the time, smartphones present a novel way to scratch all kinds of itches.

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 Post subject: Re: Highway Dangers
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:19 pm 
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At the heart of the texting and driving problem, according to researchers, is that people who habitually use their cellphones in daily life have a hard time stopping themselves from reacting to that multitude of triggers when they’re behind the wheel.

The idea that you can just turn off all those associations when you get into the car—I just don’t think it’s realistic,” said Stephen O’Connor, a psychologist at Western Kentucky University who recently coauthored a paper linking compulsive cellphone use to a heightened rate of crashes.

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 Post subject: Re: Highway Dangers
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:21 pm 
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Worse yet, driving itself may exacerbate the problem. According to Paul Atchley, a psychologist at the University of Kansas who studies texting and driving, drivers are at a disadvantage when it comes to resisting temptation, because their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for inhibition, is engaged by the task of driving. “The part of your brain that would say, ‘Don’t do this, this is bad for you,’ is occupied,” he said.

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 Post subject: Re: Highway Dangers
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:23 pm 
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If smartphone use has become more automatic than conscious for a broad swath of the population, it suggests a complete solution to the problem will require more than laws and ad campaigns: What people who text and drive must do is change their behavior in a way that’s akin to kicking a compulsion.

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 Post subject: Re: Highway Dangers
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:24 pm 
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“If we think it’s socially unacceptable to have one person in a group constantly playing with their phone,” said Atchley, “it’s our responsibility as a friend to say, ‘Can you put the phone down and just hang out with us?’”

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 Post subject: Re: Highway Dangers
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:25 pm 
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Ultimately, the researchers agree, figuring out how to stop grabbing for our phones will depend on recognizing that we’re relating to this new technology with some very ancient instincts—and that we’ll need to take those into account, not just fight them. “It is a new kind of problem,” said Campbell, “and in a way it’s the same old problem we’ve always faced as human beings: that underlying need to connect, to overcome those boundaries between self and other. What I’d call the human condition.”

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