(Natural News) American and European researchers suggest that people who chase “likes” on social media share similar thinking patterns with lab rats seeking food.
In their study, which is set to be published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers found that looking for affirmation online is very much like “reward learning,” a type of reinforcement learning commonly observed in lab mice conditioned to perform certain actions with food as a reinforcer.
The psychology behind social media addiction
The intense popularity of social media is often attributed to a psychological need for social rewards, but the link between the two lacked empirical evidence. To that end, the researchers used computational models to analyze more than one million posts from over 4,000 social media users to see whether social rewards influence social media use.
The models showed that people tend to post more frequently when they receive many likes and less frequently when they get fewer likes. The researchers arrived at a similar finding after creating an Instagram-like platform where participants could post memes and like each other’s posts. Those who received more likes tended to post more often on average.