Earlier this year, Martin Lindstrom (author of Brandwashed) carried out an fMRI experiment to find out weather iPhones were as addictive as alcohol, cocaine, shopping or video games. As with most additions, the chemical driver of this process is the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine.
Our 16 subjects were exposed separately to audio and to video of a ringing and vibrating iPhone.
In each instance, the results showed activation in both the audio and visual cortices of the subjects’ brains. In other words, when they were exposed to the video, our subjects’ brains didn’t just see the vibrating iPhone, they “heard” it, too; and when they were exposed to the audio, they also “saw” it. This powerful cross-sensory phenomenon is known as synesthesia.
But most striking of all was the flurry of activation in the insular cortex of the brain, which is associated with feelings of love and compassion. The subjects’ brains responded to the sound of their phones as they would respond to the presence or proximity of a girlfriend, boyfriend or family member.
In short, the subjects didn’t demonstrate the classic brain-based signs of addiction. Instead, they loved their iPhones.
Martin Lindstrom is the author of “Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy.”
Also see the rebuttal to the times article.