Can’t put your phone down? Blame dating apps.

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Erin Rook

We all know someone who never seems to put down their cell phone. But there’s a reason these handheld computers keep sucking people in, and dating apps like Grindr play significant role, according to psychologist Dr. Greg Carson.

“Your phone is an addiction machine,” Carson writes in a new article titled Are You Addicted to Your Phone? “It’s like having a casino in your pocket with lots of little slot machines (apps) that continually beg for your attention with buzzes, dings and flashes. Then it rewards you for glancing at it with treats in the form of texts, pics and likes.”

The psychological phenomenon is called Variable Ratio Reinforcement. Because we can’t predict when the next “reward” will come,  our brains imagine it must be just around the corner. But while social media apps like Facebook and Instagram contribute to that feedback loop, dating apps such as Grindr, Scruff, and Tindr take that cycle to another level:

Much like the more generic slot machines of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, dating apps give you unpredictable reinforcements like woofs, unlocks and matches—and lots of “Hey” and “Sup.” But unlike those other platforms, dating apps center around one primary goal: sex. The resulting sexual arousal when looking at these apps makes us feel more powerful, more alert and more alive. That makes them the most enticing slot machines (slut machines?) in your pocket casino.

Perhaps that’s why, despite our best efforts toward restraint, uninstalling apps is often the only way to break free. That is, until we download them again.

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