09/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Information Addiction and Our Quest for Relevancy

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Turns out there might be a biological imperative to explain our addiction to information that leads us to obsessively check our Facebook profiles for updates and inexplicably lose hours at a time searching for obscure bits of information on Google. Scientists refer to this desire as seeking or wanting, a practice that affects the dopamine centers of our brains and causes us to chase the potential reward just around the corner rather than settle for the tangible one right in front of us. This quest for what might be, creates a seemingly infinite feedback loop where consumption continuously renews the appetite.


Slate explains how this idea is fueled by our culture of increasing immediacy and mobility, where small cues that some new piece of data might be coming -- a buzz before a text message or a bell prompting a new email -- make the prospect even more enticing:

Since we're restless, easily bored creatures, our gadgets give us in abundance qualities the seeking/wanting system finds particularly exciting. Novelty is one. Panksepp says the dopamine system is activated by finding something unexpected or by the anticipation of something new. If the rewards come unpredictably -- as e-mail, texts, updates do -- we get even more carried away.

And while we may be predisposed to rely on a constant stream of information, apparently not all bits are created equal.

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