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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Does Your Cell Phone Have Pavlovian Powers?

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In an experiment, Ivan Pavlov rang a bell before feeding food to a dog.  After repeating the procedure several times, unconsciously the dog would salivate at the sound of the bell, even when no food was presented. As it turns out, the same brain signals that brought Pavlov’s dogs running for dinner give us an intense urge to react instinctively to social cues.  Our most prominent equivalent today is texting.  Like Pavlov’s dogs, we are physiologically conditioned; we “salivate,” for more.  We listen for the tone or vibration on our phone signaling the next call or text.  Those vibrations and rings serve as conditioned stimuli; essentially training us to expect a little bit of information in the form of a text every time we hear it.  The greater our anticipation for an imminent reply the greater our compulsions.  Sounds innocent, right?

Consider this:  It’s your 13-year-olds birthday.  You buy him a Smartphone  He can talk, he can text, he can send emails; let’s face it, there isn’t much he can’t do.  Like most kids, it seems like he is on his phone 24/7; he has become conditioned that every time he hears the sound, he must answer his phone.  Fast forward; he is 16 and has his driver’s license.  Can you tell me when the phone goes off he won’t answer it?  You may have had several discussions about the dangers of using his phone while driving; he may have promised he would never answer that call or text.  He doesn’t realize how he has been conditioned over the years.  It rings, he picks it up.  It’s just a quick text back; it will only take seconds.

Despite laws, PSA’s, and anti-texting and driving campaigns, we see it daily on our roadways.  We read about serious and fatal accidents due to distracted drivers.  Our phones are our most dangerous passengers. Until each of us realizes that, we won’t really be safe.  Isn’t it time we all do our part to stop this dangerous activity?  Remember, it took a lot of repetition to train a dog to salivate at the sound of a bell. At the end of the day, it is up to each and every one of us.  If you are calling or texting, you are not dying; anything short of that can wait.