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Irresistible
Cover of Irresistible
Irresistible
The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked
"One of the most mesmerizing and important books I've read in quite some time. Alter brilliantly illuminates the new obsessions that are controlling our lives and offers the tools we need to rescue our businesses, our families, and our sanity." Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take
Welcome to the age of behavioral addiction—an age in which half of the American population is addicted to at least one behavior. We obsess over our emails, Instagram likes, and Facebook feeds; we binge on TV episodes and YouTube videos; we work longer hours each year; and we spend an average of three hours each day using our smartphones. Half of us would rather suffer a broken bone than a broken phone, and Millennial kids spend so much time in front of screens that they struggle to interact with real, live humans.

In this revolutionary book, Adam Alter, a professor of psychology and marketing at NYU, tracks the rise of behavioral addiction, and explains why so many of today's products are irresistible. Though these miraculous products melt the miles that separate people across the globe, their extraordinary and sometimes damaging magnetism is no accident. The companies that design these products tweak them over time until they become almost impossible to resist.

By reverse engineering behavioral addiction, Alter explains how we can harness addictive products for the good—to improve how we communicate with each other, spend and save our money, and set boundaries between work and play—and how we can mitigate their most damaging effects on our well-being, and the health and happiness of our children.
Adam Alter's previous book, Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave is available in paperback from Penguin.
"One of the most mesmerizing and important books I've read in quite some time. Alter brilliantly illuminates the new obsessions that are controlling our lives and offers the tools we need to rescue our businesses, our families, and our sanity." Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take
Welcome to the age of behavioral addiction—an age in which half of the American population is addicted to at least one behavior. We obsess over our emails, Instagram likes, and Facebook feeds; we binge on TV episodes and YouTube videos; we work longer hours each year; and we spend an average of three hours each day using our smartphones. Half of us would rather suffer a broken bone than a broken phone, and Millennial kids spend so much time in front of screens that they struggle to interact with real, live humans.

In this revolutionary book, Adam Alter, a professor of psychology and marketing at NYU, tracks the rise of behavioral addiction, and explains why so many of today's products are irresistible. Though these miraculous products melt the miles that separate people across the globe, their extraordinary and sometimes damaging magnetism is no accident. The companies that design these products tweak them over time until they become almost impossible to resist.

By reverse engineering behavioral addiction, Alter explains how we can harness addictive products for the good—to improve how we communicate with each other, spend and save our money, and set boundaries between work and play—and how we can mitigate their most damaging effects on our well-being, and the health and happiness of our children.
Adam Alter's previous book, Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave is available in paperback from Penguin.
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  • From the cover 1.

    The Rise of Behavioral Addiction

    A couple of years ago, Kevin Holesh, an app developer, decided that he wasn't spending enough time with his family. The culprit was technology, and his smartphone was the biggest offender. Holesh wanted to know how much time he was spending on his phone each day, so he designed an app called Moment. Moment tracked Holesh's daily screen time, tallying how long he used his phone each day. I spent months trying to reach Holesh because he lives by his word. On the Moment website, he writes that he may be slow to reply to email because he's trying to spend less time online. Eventually, after my third attempt, Holesh replied with a polite apology and agreed to talk. "The app stops tracking when you're just listening to music or making phone calls," Holesh told me. "It starts up again when you're looking at your screen—sending emails or browsing the web, for example." Holesh was spending an hour and fifteen minutes a day glued to his screen, which seemed like a lot. Some of his friends had -similar concerns, but also had no idea how much time they lost to their phones. So Holesh shared the app. "I asked people to guess what their daily usage was and they were almost always 50 percent too low."

    I downloaded Moment several months ago. I guessed I was using my phone for an hour a day at the most, and picking it up perhaps ten times a day. I wasn't proud of those numbers, but they sounded about right. After a month, Moment reported that I was using my phone for an average of three hours a day, and picking it up an average of forty times. I was stunned. I wasn't playing games or surfing the web for hours, but somehow I managed to spend twenty hours a week staring at my phone.

    I asked Holesh whether my numbers were typical. "Absolutely," he said. "We have thousands of users, and their average usage time is just under three hours. They pick up their phones an average of thirty-nine times a day." Holesh reminded me that these were the people who were concerned enough about their screen time to download a tracking app in the first place. There are millions of smartphone users who are oblivious or just don't care enough to track their usage—and there's a reasonable chance they're spending even more than three hours on their phones each day.

    Perhaps there was just a small clump of heavy users who spent all day, every day on their phones, dragging the average usage times higher. But Holesh shared the usage data of eight thousand Moment users to illustrate that wasn't the case at all:

    Most people spend between one and four hours on their phones each day—and many far longer. This isn't a minority issue. If, as guidelines suggest, we should spend less than an hour on our phones each day, 88 percent of Holesh's users were overusing. They were spending an average of a quarter of their waking lives on their phones—more time than any other daily activity, except sleeping. Each month almost one hundred hours was lost to checking email, texting, playing games, surfing the web, reading articles, checking bank balances, and so on. Over the average lifetime, that amounts to a staggering eleven years. On average they were also picking up their phones about three times an hour. This sort of overuse is so prevalent that researchers have coined the term "nomophobia" to describe the fear of being without mobile phone contact (an abbreviation of "no-mobile-phobia").

    Smartphones rob us of time, but even their mere presence is damaging. In 2013, two psychologists invited pairs of strangers into a small room, and asked them to engage in conversation. To smooth the process, the...
About the Author-
  • Adam Alter is an associate professor of marketing at New York University's Stern School of Business. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave, and has written for the New York Times, New Yorker, Atlantic, WIRED, Slate, Washington Post, and Popular Science, among other publications.
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Irresistible
Irresistible
The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked
Adam Alter
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