Although science on daydreaming often describes the consequences of a wandering mind e. In seeking to excel at a difficult game, we are rehearsing excellence in particular domains of skill, but also in the domain of social competition itself. It is important to note that these same circuits are implicated in addictive drug use Belin et al. Instant text messaging, email, and social media provide a platform for our hungry need to be connected, but also for our need to watch and monitor others, and better still, for our need to be seen, heard from, thought about, monitored, judged, and appraised by others. We might call this the hyper-natural monitoring hypothesis. A recent large-scale investigation using experience-sampling, for example, demonstrated that nearly half of waking time is spent in mind-wandering episodes unrelated to the task at hand Killingsworth and Gilbert, We conclude with insights from contemplative philosophies and harm-reduction models on finding the right rituals for honoring social connections and setting intentional protocols for the consumption of social information. Online-mediated life, more to the point, is always, already real life, and as such, it is inherently social.
We propose, thus, to think of this urge as fundamentally normal, and anchored in core mechanisms of social cognition that are distinct to our species. Although science on daydreaming often describes the consequences of a wandering mind e. According to current research, smartphone use is associated with depression Steers et al. These findings suggest that it is not just the smartphone itself that is addictive but rather the—direct or indirect—social interaction it enables. This reassuring feeling of being watched and guided by imaginary others has been hypothesized to play an important role in the evolution of cooperation, morality, organized religion, and large-scale social life Whitehouse, ; Boyer, ; Norenzayan and Shariff, ; Atran and Henrich, ; Norenzayan et al. Popular accounts, we argue, miss the mark on a crucially important factor: We might call this the hyper-natural monitoring hypothesis. Gendered dimensions of smartphone addiction provide further clues into its inherent sociality. According to this view, often called the super-natural monitoring hypothesis, we fashioned our Gods and Spirits to better flesh out the imaginary agents that guide our ordinary cognition, consciousness, action, and moral attitudes. Much has been said about Internet addiction and the new medias and technologies that connect us and make us lonely at the same time, leading to adverse mental health consequences Twenge, Predictive-Processing and Smartphones If the primary motivation of smartphone use is prosocial, why can this technology lead to such negative outcomes? It is important to note that these same circuits are implicated in addictive drug use Belin et al. For associative learning to occur, an initial exposure to a new stimulus must occur alongside a reflex-eliciting stimulus. Key insights from the neuroscience of learning and addiction, however, can offer important insights into our attachment to the strange flickering and buzzing bricks that seem to regulate our lives. Drawing from key findings in evolutionary anthropology and the cognitive science of religion, we articulate a hypernatural monitoring model of smartphone addiction grounded in a general social rehearsal theory of human cognition. This gender discrepancy is maintained in smartphone use, with numerous studies showing that women use their phones for social purposes significantly more than men do Tufekci, ; Van Deursen et al. Moreover, mind-wandering and social cognition rely on shared neural activation, whereby the neural activity that occurs during daydreaming significantly overlaps with that of core social processes like mentalizing and perspective taking — the very processes that enable an individual to socially flourish Poerio and Smallwood, First, the majority of smartphone use is spent on social activities such as social networking, text messaging, and phone calls Li and Chung, ; Lopez-Fernandez et al. The time is ripe, then, to elaborate a generalized social rehearsal theory of cognition. We insist that this drive for sociality is a fundamental feature of human evolution that predates smartphones by hundreds of thousands — by some accounts several millions — of years Hrdy, The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. According to our hypothesis, the prosocial nature of female smartphone use would render females more susceptible to addiction. From an evolutionary perspective, however, the human capacity to function optimally in any environment and indeed human intelligence itself is predicated on having access to a large, cumulative repertoire of contextually relevant cultural information devised by others, and that no single individual could invent on her own, or recreate alone in her own lifetime Henrich, ; Mercier and Sperber, According to this finding, addictions become strongest when we cannot figure out the pattern of when to reliably expect them van Holst et al. Recent models on the evolution of depression help confirm this social hypothesis for the mechanisms of ordinary cognition.
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