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Adam Alter's new book "Anatomy of a Breakthrough: How to Get Unstuck When It Matters Most"

















Two days ago we have attended a great session with Professor Alter and Professor G. impressed about his new book "Anatomy of a Breakthrough" and some of the concepts how people get stuck and unstuck we are have learnt from his past popular book "Irresistible" Once we received the new book, we will talk and blog about it.


Today we're going to talk about his called “Irresistible”, which helps us tackle the issue of behavioral addiction. What is behavioral addiction? In the past, when we heard the word “addiction”, we would think of drug addicts or smokers, which is what we call substance addiction. Substance addiction has existed in our world for many, many years, but it is characterized as a behavior carried out by a very small portion of the population.

Behavioral addiction is different. Nowadays, when you walk into any room, you'll see many people looking down at their phones. In the past, many middle-aged and elderly people would educate their children at home, saying "You have no willpower, you never stop when you start playing games”. But when smartphones entered the households, you'd find that older people are even more engrossed in their phones than children.

Therefore, when over 50% of people worldwide have severe behavioral addiction, we have to face this issue. However, some might say, if 40~50% of people have the same behavior, could this be a natural human trait, rather than a disease?

There's an experiment that tells us why behavioral addiction can be problematic, and hearing about it makes my skin crawl. They took a bunch of newborn kittens and kept them in a dark room, so the kittens couldn't learn anything. Each day, they put half of the kittens in a cage with only vertical stripes, a large cage filled with vertical lines. The other half were placed in a cage with only horizontal stripes, where they could only see longitudinal lines, just line after line.

After about one or two months of this training, they brought these kittens into the real world. Guess what? These kittens would walk into table legs, their eyes just couldn't see anything in three dimensions, they would walk straight into table legs without avoiding them.

Moreover, when people threw a ball towards a kitten, you know the instinct of a kitten is to pounce at the sight of a ball. But these trained kittens were indifferent when they saw the ball, which just bounced past them without any reaction, because they had completely lost their sense of depth. Psychologists tell us that if a human brain undergoes such training, it would become like a pickled cucumber, which can never return to being a fresh cucumber.

So many parents give their very young children televisions, iPads, and phones, letting them play with a flat screen. You'll find that many parents are proud when a child just over a year old can play well with a phone. If a child lives in a flat world from such a young age, it's possible that their brain might struggle to recover. This is why I chose this book to share with everyone.

With so many of us addicted, we should at least know why we are addicted, how we became hooked step by step. In the past, during the era of substance addiction, there was at least the protection of criminal activity. It was understood as a crime, you couldn't partake, or there was a ban on selling tobacco to minors as a protective measure.

But in today's internet age, with the emergence of a large amount of behavioral addiction, you'll find that in our waters, there are hooks of addiction everywhere. Here is Instagram, there is Facebook, over there is WeChat, and a host of other things, all hoping for us to spend more time on them. They are gloriously referred to as the attention economy.

Many people feel that the more time an app can occupy, the more valuable the business is. Countless times, I have been told that I should be more ambitious, I should play more games, I should do this and that. But I really don't want to consume more of users' time, so we created a slightly restrained and principled app.

Studying one book together every week, I think it's enough. This is the theme of the book 'Irresistible': How do we solve the problem of addiction?

There are also some particularly frightening facts. For example, we all know that Steve Jobs changed the world with the iPhone and iPad, but Jobs never allowed his children to use the iPad. The author observed that when Jobs and his family went out to eat, no one took out an iPad. Later, Jobs admitted to a journalist that he did not allow his children to use the iPad.

Chris Anderson, the editor of “Wired” magazine and author of “The Long Tail”, does not allow electronic devices in bedrooms in his house. Bringing electronic devices into the bedroom is considered a violation, so no one in their family can use electronic devices in the bedroom. Furthermore, they have strict restrictions on children using electronic devices.

This also includes Twitter's founder, Evan Williams, who is also the creator of blogging. He only buys books for his children, never letting them use the iPad. These are all hooks pulling at you. Even fitness experts are advising people to stay away from wearable devices. For example, we wear a watch, or a bracelet-like watch that can count steps, do other things. Sometimes you're already very tired, but because you haven't completed today's steps, you want to walk a bit more, which is unscientific. It doesn't have many benefits for your body, and can even cause sports injuries at times. But because of rankings, think about it, in our app, every night when everyone checks the rankings, some people walk more than 50,000 steps. What is this? Walking more than 50,000 steps.

Later, some said they attached it to their dog to record the steps, which may or may not be true, but in any case, we easily get hooked by these hooks and become addicted. The very people who create these things are often the ones who reject them themselves. Isn't this something we should be wary of?

Addiction has slowly transitioned from substance addiction to behavioral addiction. And often, there's a number on the phone. Someone one day wanted to test how many times they opened their phone each day, so they downloaded an app that specifically monitored phone usage time. They originally estimated that they used their phone about an hour a day, thinking that was already quite long. After monitoring for a while, they found out that they used their phone for an average of three hours a day. And three hours of phone usage per day is not an astonishing number, because the people who would think to download such an app are already alert to this issue.

A lot of people don't even think about monitoring this. So I often observe many people - especially on the subway or bus, or in some workplaces - huddled together, each looking down at a phone. They never think, "I have nothing to do right now, should I stand up for a while, should I move around?"

There's another interesting experiment, where psychologists found two groups of people to have a face-to-face conversation. The first time, they were allowed to chat about their joys and hobbies, and it was very pleasant. The second time, they were told to place their phones on the table. The result? Nobody touched the phone, but even with the phone lying on the table untouched, the quality of the conversation dropped significantly because we were distracted. We feel that there's another world, right there, and we really want to reach out and check it, see if anyone has sent me a WeChat message, liked my post, commented on me. The influence of phones on us is pervasive.

Even when it's not open, it has already affected our lives, our conversation quality, etc. So after reading this book, when I have meals with others, I ask everyone to put their phones in their pockets, not on the table, because having them on the table affects our ability to concentrate on the conversation.

Over half of people will show symptoms of addiction. So what exactly are the symptoms of addiction? Everyone, test yourselves as I read the signs of addiction and see if you have any of these conditions.

"The so-called behavioral addiction is the loss of the ability to freely choose whether to continue or stop the related behavior (this is called loss of control), and experiencing adverse consequences related to the behavior. In other words, the person involved cannot reliably predict when the behavior will occur, how long it will last, when it will stop, and what other behaviors may be related to the addictive behavior. Therefore, the person abandons other activities and no longer enjoys them as much as before if they continue. Further negative consequences of addictive behavior may include disruption of life roles, such as work, social activities or hobbies; damage to social relationships, leading to criminal activity or legal problems; getting involved in dangerous situations, personal injury or harm, economic loss, or emotional trauma."

This is very formal language, but have you ever had an argument with your spouse or children at home because of using your phone? Or, before you go to bed, you say, "I'll take one more look at my phone," but then you end up browsing until 1 a.m. This is called loss of control.

When such an uncontrolled situation occurs, we should alert ourselves that there may be a possibility of addiction. So let's do a self-test. For the following questions, you can score yourself from 0 to 5. 0 means it never happens, or doesn't apply to me. 1 is rarely, 2 is occasionally, 3 is often, 4 is frequently, and 5 is always. In short, from 0 to 5, the condition gets more serious, give yourself a score.

The first question, do you find yourself spending more time online than expected? Score from 0 to 5, with 0 being never and 5 being always. The second question, have other people in your life complained about your time online? Think about it. The third question, do you find yourself checking your emails without reason? The fourth, do you lose sleep due to extensive internet use and feel drowsy all day? The fifth, do you find yourself saying "I'll only be online for a few minutes" when you go online?

Alright, after scoring, add them up. If your score is below 7, you show no signs of internet addiction. A score of 8 to 12 suggests a mild internet addiction, you may sometimes spend too long online, but generally you control your usage. A score of 13 to 20 suggests a moderate addiction, meaning your relationship with the internet has occasionally or often caused you problems. A score of 21 to 25 suggests a severe internet addiction, implying the internet has caused serious problems in your life.

Let's compare two sets of numbers, and you'll see how smartphones have changed our lives. In 2008, adults spent 18 minutes a day on their phones. Think about it, remember it, such beautiful days. Our phones only distracted us for 18 minutes a day. Why? Because back then, other than being a brick, phones were only used for making calls and occasional text messages. Text messages cost money, 0.1 RMB each time, so the time was short, 18 minutes.

By 2015, it had increased to nearly 3 hours, specifically 2 hours and 48 minutes. Now our interactions with devices are increasing, and in the future, there will be VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality), and you might spend a large part of your day on your phone. Have any of you recently seen a new movie by Spielberg called "Ready Player One"? That could very well be the result of an unrestrained development of human society. If we do not regulate our use of mobile devices, we may all end up wearing VR headsets, living in virtual reality every day.

Just order takeout for meals, it doesn't matter what the real world is like because I can live entirely within VR glasses, which is quite frightening. In 2000, a report from Microsoft's Canadian office stated that the average person's attention span was 12 seconds. By 2013, this number had dropped to 8 seconds. The most ridiculous thing is that the attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds. That means our ability to focus is gradually being surpassed by goldfish, which is a symptom of addiction.

After this self-test, we can rank ourselves to see if we have reached the point of addiction. So what is its impact on children? If a child develops symptoms of addiction too early, there are a few situations that may occur. One is forced socializing. What does that mean? It means if you don't play, nobody plays with you. If a child doesn't use a smartphone, they can't talk to their classmates, and all the classmates chat and form teams online. If a child doesn't use a smartphone, they can't fit in, which can lead to forced socialization.

The second is neglecting offline activities. Many children feel that offline life is not important. I have seen many children, the younger generation, friends' children, little boys, and girls are already getting together to play on their phones. When we were young, we got together to play and make a mess, but they play with their phones.

The third is premature maturity. One child lamented, "Why did my childhood disappear so quickly?" Because he had just started junior high, he no longer plays any children's games. All games are resolved online, maturing prematurely, delving into adult topics prematurely, understanding the adult world too early, this is a phenomenon of premature maturity.

Also, there's game addiction. Children's resistance to addictive behavior is very weak.

There's a Vietnamese game designer named Dong Nguyen, who once designed a game called "Flappy Bird". It involves using a phone to control a bird flying around in a complex environment, similar to an air combat game. After making this game, he began to taste the harm of it. Everyone around him got involved, and he found that people around him were all addicted to this game. In the end, Dong Nguyen chose to shut down the game. His shutdown statement was, it had nothing to do with politics or economics, nor any external pressures, but that he felt it was wrong to let so many people get addicted to it. So, this has a significant impact on children.

So what is the physiological cause of addiction? There are many experiments to prove this, and it stems from an accident. Once, a psychologist was conducting an experiment on rats, inserting an electrode into the rat's brain, and stimulating a specific part of it. After stimulating that part, the rat should have run and hid in a corner. They wanted to monitor this behavior, but they found that one rat was different from the others. When the other rats were stimulated, they ran off immediately, but this rat got excited and seemed very happy and highly stimulated.

How stimulated? It was so stimulated that it neither ate nor drank for many days until it died. The researchers wondered what part they had stimulated. When they examined the electrode, they found that it was bent. Unlike the straight electrodes used on other rats, this one had bent after insertion and had touched another part of the brain called the septum.

When the electrode didn't reach the midbrain but reached the septum instead, it hit the rat's pleasure center. The rat was extremely happy, constantly excited, and experienced a surge of dopamine in its brain. For example, when we're thirsty, a sip of water can make us feel comfortable, or a gust of cool air from an air conditioner can feel refreshing, these situations trigger a small dopamine release that makes us feel good.

But can you imagine the feeling of a dopamine surge? It's a euphoria that comes from an intense rush of dopamine in the brain. When playing online games, your brain experiences this dopamine surge, but there is a problem, the amount of dopamine needed to achieve this feeling continues to grow.

Why is drug addiction a one-way street? Because once you start, you need more and more to achieve the same high, leading to dire circumstances. Even as you begin to commit criminal acts due to your addiction, you still desire more of the substance to feel that surge again.

The same goes for gaming. At first, a little gaming may be enough, but then you might find yourself pulling all-nighters, playing non-stop. We have all seen many children and families completely conquered by online games. I believe everyone has been deeply shocked by this pain, this is the mechanism of brain addiction. The mechanism of playing with phones, gaming, smoking, drug addiction is the same; they all stimulate our brains to secrete more dopamine.

There was a psychologist who conducted an experiment with a monkey. He named the monkey Cleopatra and inserted a trigger into the monkey's brain that the monkey could control. The monkey could choose to stimulate or not stimulate. It was later found that when the monkey was in its cage, it would constantly press the switch. But if you took the monkey out and brought it to a new environment, it would press the switch much less often.

What does this show? It shows that the environment has a significant impact on our addictive behaviors. What verified this theory? During the Vietnam War, as some may know, the battlefield in Vietnam was near the Golden Triangle, where drugs were rampant. To what extent? 95% of US soldiers were offered heroin, including those sent by the US to investigate heroin addiction. As soon as they disembarked from the plane, they were swarmed by people offering them heroin. Various people, including children, women, and even their own soldiers, were selling heroin to them.

So, at the time, the government was very worried about something: what to do when so many addicts returned from the battlefield to the mainland of the United States? The whole society of the United States would be thrown into chaos because of these many drug users, all returning from using heroin, how to manage? Even the president at that time issued a speech specifically, saying that they must be careful, prudent, treat them well, and so on, and thought of many methods. However, unexpectedly, after these soldiers were withdrawn from the Vietnam battlefield back to the mainland of the United States, the overall drug relapse rate was less than 5%. Everyone was very surprised, saying that heroin isn't highly addictive? Why would it only be 5%? The fact is that the environment is completely different. In Vietnam, people are everywhere looking for you, enticing you to smoke, selling it to you very cheaply, and so on. Even that becomes a part of the local culture. But when you return to a normal society, that environment is gone.

Just like the monkey, once it leaves its cage, it no longer presses the switch. So for quitting addiction, the environment is extremely important.

Here is a case about a boy named Isaac. This boy was always a good child with good grades. Later, he was admitted to American University, located in Washington. When he was studying at American University, he began to play World of Warcraft until he completely succumbed to the game. His father was very upset. The child later said, "Whenever I recall the image of my father from my childhood, he was always delighted and happy to see me, full of love. But then one day, I saw him crying quietly behind my back, I knew that I had drifted far away from my dad." He was fully engrossed in the game every day.

He said, "I decided to quit." They went to Seattle together. In Seattle, there is an institution called "Reboot", which helps you quit internet addiction. We will talk about how "Reboot" operates later. After he arrived there, he quit for a few months. He was very confident and felt that he was ready, "I'm okay now," and went back to Washington to study. The teachers at "Reboot" told him not to go back. They told him to switch to another city even if he wanted to continue studying.

He said, "That's too much trouble. I've been studying there for two years. I want to finish it. Don't worry. Look, I've put it down. I've completely let go." He then went back to Washington. After he returned to Washington, he spent a few weeks peacefully. Suddenly one day, he received a call. A friend called him and said, "We're about to log in, do you want to join us for a game?" He casually said, "Let's give it a try." Then he logged in, and that game lasted for 5 weeks. For a whole 5 weeks, he didn't leave the house at all and just ordered takeout, continually playing the game.

After 5 weeks of playing, he finally took a break, alright, log out. After logging out and looking in the mirror, he had gained a lot of weight. He weighed himself and had gained 27 kilograms. He had returned to the era of being controlled by the game. Everyone, think about it, how difficult it is to lose 50 kilograms? But if you sit there and play games for 5 weeks, you can gain 50 kilograms.

The boy felt that this was unacceptable, it was too devastating. So he firmly decided to leave Washington and went to Seattle, to "Reboot". He started to quit internet addiction again, and this time after quitting, he didn't go back to school anymore. He set up a fitness center in Seattle, ran the fitness center together with others, and stayed close to the internet addiction treatment center, not too far away, to help those who are quitting internet addiction to exercise and so on. He found his entrepreneurial path and dared not return to Washington.

This illustrates the impact of the environment on our addiction. Let's look at the biological mechanism of addiction, almost all addictions originate from pain. Do you remember, we used to watch a lot of martial arts films, such as "Fearless". Why do those people smoke opium? The reason for smoking opium is because of a cough, because of illness, it was introduced as a treatment.

Freud lost to cocaine in his later years. Why did Freud lose to cocaine? Because he wanted to research whether cocaine could quit opium, then he used it, and said it was very effective. After smoking it, he no longer smoked opium. As a result, until his later years, when he was killed by cocaine, he finally realized that it is also a very dangerous thing. So sometimes, to avoid one pain, we will cover it with another greater pain.

So do you know, when is the peak incidence of all addictive phenomena? Adolescence. Why? Because during adolescence and youth, the pressure and challenges you face are the most in your life. If a person does not have addictive phenomena during adolescence, it is difficult for him to have serious addictive phenomena in his life.

Of course, this period of adolescence is relatively long, including up to twenty-five or six years old. When you are in a city, just graduated and start to struggle, it is also the time when your pressure is the greatest. During this time, people are very prone to smoking addiction, alcohol addiction, and other various addictions. Because you have more pain, the mechanism of addiction originates from a pain here. In order to solve this pain, an alternative solution is found, and this alternative solution will cause us to secrete dopamine, we mistakenly think it is the solution, but it is not.

But there is another interesting phenomenon, many elderly people have addictive phenomena. Especially after getting Parkinson's disease, many elderly people with Parkinson's disease will show a lot of addiction, very strange, all kinds of addictive phenomena, doctors do not have a perfect explanation. But it may be related to the drugs they use in their treatment, which can make them have symptoms of addiction. You need to distinguish between addiction and hobby.

Some people say, "I like to play chess, is that addiction? I feel uncomfortable if I don't play a game." The difference between addiction and liking is that addiction is not about liking, but craving. I don't even like it, I even feel in my heart that it's not right to play games, I shouldn't play games, I shouldn't be so decadent, but when it comes to that point, I can't help but play. That's addiction.

Experiments also prove this point. You know they use rats for experiments, give the rat a sip of sugar water at a certain point, and the rat will happily smack its lips, which is a typical response. Then people thought that it must be because after drinking sugar water, his brain secretes dopamine, so it is happy, so it will smack its lips. So some psychologists who have a lot of things to do say, then I will cut off its dopamine secretion pathway. They performed surgery on the rat's brain, let it not secrete dopamine, thinking that it should no longer experience this thing, right?

Yes, the rat indeed will not go to drink sugar water as soon as it sees it like it used to, but once it is fed sugar water, it drinks it, it still smacks its lips. The feeling of smacking lips does not come from the secretion of dopamine, but from a habit. In other words, it does not love the act of drinking sugar water, but it still has to drink sugar water. The reason is like we don't like to play games, but when it comes to that point, we can't help but play, it's the same feeling. So it's not that every time you play a game you will be particularly happy, but you are controlled, you have no choice, you are just for that original feeling or to relive that feeling of the past, you will go down this old road again, this is the physiological mechanism of addiction.

So, after understanding these things, let's take a look at how an addictive game is designed? You will find that we are too easily designed by others, several factors.

The first factor is called an enticing goal. All games must give you an enticing goal. The author once ran a marathon, it was quite funny, he was running out of energy in the marathon, getting weaker as he approached the finish line. The encouragement from people beside him didn't help. As a result, a friend who understood him came over and said, with your current speed, you will definitely cross the line in 4 hours and 5 minutes.

After this sentence, the author ran desperately and finally finished in 3 hours and 59 minutes. Then he went to look at the marathon results. Let's think about it, so many people, thousands of people running a marathon, what should the score distribution look like? According to our normal conception, so many people running should be a normal distribution curve, right? It should be a smooth normal distribution curve, but in fact, when you look at the marathon results, you will find that there is a peak before each whole point, it is not a smooth curve at all. There is a peak before each whole point. Why? Because if I can run in 4 hours and 5 minutes, why not run under 4 hours? This is the pursuit of the goal. So when a person has a goal, his behavior will undergo a huge change, and the game takes advantage of this.

There was a man named Bob Beamon, an American long jumper, who participated in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. He didn't do well in the first and second jumps. Then, a friend told him, "Relax and just jump." As a result, he jumped, and after he finished, he found the referee looking for a ruler. The referee's ruler wasn't long enough, so he went to find a longer one to measure. After the measurement, Beamon broke the world record, and the record he broke was so outrageous that it stood for 23 years, from 1968.

However, do you know the sad part of this story? This event was later called the Beamon Effect. What is the Beamon Effect? It's about reaching the peak of life too early. With that one jump, this young man set a record that no one surpassed for 23 years. So he never achieved better results in his life because that one jump was too dramatic.

The reason is that your goals were achieved too early. But now, games and wearable devices provide us with a lot of goals. So you will find that you are controlled by your wristband, and you can't help but run. Therefore, there is a saying that is particularly good, if you set one goal after another for yourself, then you have started a state of continuous failure.

Because as soon as you achieve a goal, the next failure will appear, your life is a process of continuous failure. So the first way to control us is to provide enticing goals.

The second is called positive feedback. Children will definitely press that thing in the elevator, they will definitely press which floor in the elevator, and some particularly naughty children will press all the buttons. Why do children love to press the elevator button so much? Very simple, because it lights up when pressed, this is feedback. Once you press it, it lights up. If the elevator doesn't respond no matter how you press it, children may not like to press it so much, and this pursuit of feedback is a weakness of us humans.

So the author said that "likes" are the cocaine of our time. A lot of people look at Facebook, WeChat, and every day they care about how many people like me. Everyone thinks it's like a fortune, it's a very interesting feedback, but this thing can control us. This experiment was done with pigeons, as mentioned in many other books. A pigeon pecks at the feeder, and food may come out each time it pecks. Do you know under what circumstances the pigeon pecks the most fiercely? If the pigeon pecks fiercely, food will come down every time, the pigeon is not so crazy. If the pigeon pecks, and there is never anything coming down, it won't peck anymore. But the scariest thing is occasionally there is, occasionally there is not, sometimes there is food when it pecks, sometimes there isn't, this pigeon will peck the feeder very crazily.

They find it so fun because their feedback is uncertain, which is why those gambling games can control us. If you go to Japan, you'll see it's really a kingdom of gaming machines, with slot machines all over the streets. Many people have wasted their entire lives on them. A local friend told me that some people, after receiving their retirement benefits, spend their entire lives there, going every morning and staying till evening, just playing. It's a guaranteed loss. It's a game you're bound to lose.

Why do people get so addicted? The game designers have learned a trick called disguising loss as a win. What does disguising loss as a win mean? Think about it, the slot machine has three patterns, and you win when you get the same pattern. But they would design a large screen, with 15 combinations on it. As long as one of the 15 combinations is correct, it rings, and you lose the other 14. So in order to play these 15 combinations, let's say you have to put in 1.5 US dollars, and if one combination wins, you can earn back, for example, 0.5 US dollars.

But you lose all the other things. But the thing is, they don't care about these, as long as there's one win, it will ring. The human brain at that time is completely irrational, it will take the harsh sound, a beautiful woman's voice, and then congratulate you, throwing confetti, all as a feeling of winning, while in fact, it is a result of losing, this is called disguising loss as a win.

When we play games, aren't there enough tricks? Even though you're losing that badly, you're still constantly earning coins. You feel like you've earned a lot of coins, but in the end, you lose everything, this is the feedback of disguising loss as a win.

There's another one, almost winning is better than always winning. The reason why a lot of gamblers get addicted is that they feel they're just a little short. Last time I reached the third prize, I'll get there soon, he didn't even think about how much money he spent to get that third prize.

The gap in probability between the third prize and the second prize, he won't think about it. His feeling is that I'm just about to win, this is positive feedback. So positive feedback can control a person, control a child.

The third one is called effortless progress. There's a Japanese man named Shigeru Miyamoto. You might not be familiar with his name, but you definitely know his work, Super Mario. It's the most successful game in human history, "Super Mario," the name, is their company's plumber. Their company had a plumber named Mario, so he named him "Super Mario."

What's so great about the game "Super Mario"? Even people who have never played it can get started right away. This is called effortless progress. Even if you don't know how to play this game, you can figure it out, you know this key is to jump, you can step on this thing, you can eat this mushroom, you can do something, and you learn very quickly. It gets you addicted first, let you play, it's fun, it's simple.

Have you ever played "Beach Landing Battle"? People of our age only know how to play these games. "Beach Landing Battle" starts very simple, with just a few enemy ships coming up, it feels so satisfying, a machine gun took them all out. But it gets harder as it goes on, this is all the first step called effortless progress.

Here's an experiment to show you how you're hooked step by step. Suppose we're playing a game on the spot, auctioning 20 dollars, I have a 20 dollar bill here, you can all bid. Start calling from 1 dollar, you'd definitely buy 20 dollars for 1 dollar. You say 1 dollar, the other side says 2 dollars, 3 dollars.

This game only has one rule. What's the rule? At the end of the auction, both the first and second place have to give me their money. For example, if you get the money for 19 dollars, you make a profit, I give you 20, you make 1 dollar. The second place who bid 18 dollars, sorry, you also have to give me the money, do you want to play? Then everyone says I'm very rational, don't worry, I won't go over 18, I'll stop calling if it goes over 18, I'm afraid of what.

Try it and see, as soon as you start playing any game, you'll find that when it's called 19 dollars, everyone will calm down, quiet for a while. After a while, a voice will say 20, he spends 20 to buy 20, why? Because if he doesn't spend this money, the 18 dollars will be gone, all gone, so he'd rather spend 20 to lose less 18, you spend 20. Then there was a long silence, and the one who bid 19 dollars said 21, he's already losing money, because this is only a 1 dollar loss, if I don't call 21 I lose 19 dollars, then 22, 23, 24. Basically after this game is done, the average transaction price is more than three times the face value, how scary.

At first, it seems easy, this doesn't lose money, I spend 10 to buy 20, what's the loss? I'm all profiting, you all think it's easy, it's easy. But in the end, when you've accumulated so many reputation points, stars, and clothes, you'll invest a lot of money into it.

We have a good friend who is an investor, of course, he's very rich, it doesn't matter. He told me that adults, spending hundreds of thousands a year playing games, I said, what can those hundreds of thousands get? Just some equipment, what can you do with that equipment? No use, but you've already invested so much, if you don't have it, don't maintain it, it's over.

So, I have to maintain it, just keep adding. This is what we call effortless progress, used in games it's called vampiric game recharging.

When we were kids playing games, we could play for a long time at the start. The first coin can play for a long time, until the first coin is dead. At this time, count down 20 seconds, to continue or not? If you continue with a coin, you can keep playing. If you don't continue, you can only see up to here today, you don't know what's behind. That feeling of not knowing is terrible, so the easy start can pull us deeper and deeper, this is called loss aversion.

The fourth hook that traps us is called gradually escalating challenges. Why are there gradually escalating challenges? There's an interesting study where they found a group of students and gave them a shock device. You can try beforehand how painful the shock is, they shock, snap. Oh, it hurts. The shock is quite painful, they know how painful the shock is. Let them sit there. What for? Just imagine a very beautiful scene, sit there for 20 minutes, just enjoy a very beautiful scene. This simple thing, what are they secretly monitoring? They are secretly monitoring if these students will take the shock device and shock themselves when they have nothing to do. Don't worry, the shock is really painful, they know beforehand how painful it is.

20 minutes of quiet sitting, you guess, in the end, will anyone shock themselves? Almost all students will shock themselves a few times, the most one person shocked 190 times. What's the concept of 190 times? It's shocking yourself every few seconds. Can't you sit there and enjoy the beauty? Recall a beautiful scene, feel your beautiful life, how good. Why do you want to shock yourself? This proves that people can't idle, people always have to find something to do, people would rather give themselves some pain than do nothing.

So you see, in marriage and family life, you will find that when there are difficulties at home, the whole family is united, jointly against the storm, helping each other, no one quarrels. We have that family feeling, but when the home is calm, they quarrel. Why? You have to shock yourself once, otherwise life is boring. People can't live in peace, people hope to bring challenges in life.

There's a man named Alexey Pajitnov, who worked in a research institute. When he had nothing to do, he thought about making a game to play. He wrote a program online and created a small game called Tetris. After he made this Tetris, he found himself in trouble, because apart from playing this game all day, he couldn't do anything else.

He was playing every day, addicted. He thought, "Am I particularly vulgar? How come my self-restraint is so low? Why do I like playing this game so much?" He gave the game to his colleagues to play, you guys try it, see if you're stronger than me, and found out that all his colleagues couldn't work anymore.

Everyone was playing Tetris every day. What's so fun about that game? Nothing, it just gets harder and harder, the only advantage of that game is that it gets harder and harder. So it keeps increasing this challenge, this challenge continues until no one reminds you to stop, you'll keep playing.

Like when we were in college, playing the game of Minesweeper, our whole class could play until we had competitions. The class organized Minesweeper competitions, just to see who could sweep the largest field the fastest. Do you say it's boring or not? But human nature is that people like to have one layer of new challenges after another.

When can we stop? There's a very important phenomenon at this time, it's that you have to give them a stop signal. What is a stop signal? This experiment is particularly funny. Some marketing experts went to watch surveillance footage in supermarkets and discovered a particularly interesting phenomenon in the supermarket, called 'butt bumping'. The supermarket is narrow, so sometimes people accidentally bump into each other, butt to butt, brush against each other, the reactions of men and women to this are completely different, not because of anger.

A large number of women stopped shopping after this slightly unpleasant collision and picked up the basket and left. Men didn't care, they continued shopping after the collision, but women left as soon as they bumped. They found it strange, so they went to interview the women who had left and asked why? Were they unhappy? Were they angry? Were they worried about sexual harassment? The women said no, they didn't even remember that it had happened, they didn't feel the collision.

But from an observational point of view, they left as soon as they were bumped. Why? Later psychologists analyzed that the bump woke her up from the inertia of shopping, which is called a stop signal. That is, when we enter an environment without a stop signal, without any sound, event, touch to remind you to stop, you will keep challenging. Keep playing, day and night, for 5 weeks, gaining 50 pounds, that's how it is. So the fourth is called gradually escalating challenges, it is also a very important hook.

The fifth is the tension of incompleteness. I won't elaborate on this because it has been mentioned in many books, the Zeigarnik effect. That is, you always want to finish what you haven't completed, especially when we watch TV dramas, when we chase dramas, even if it's a drama that you're constantly criticizing, because you don't know the outcome, you'll keep watching, this is the tension of incompleteness.

The sixth and last one is fascinating social interaction. There are two people named Jim Young and James Hong. What game did they create in the United States? They went to a party together one evening, and after they came back, they started discussing whether a girl was pretty or not. One said she was probably an 80, the other said no, I think she's a 90. They then argued for a long time about whether the girl was an 80 or a 90.

Then they thought about creating an app where everyone could upload their own photos. After uploading, people can comment with scores like 80, 90. It's such a simple game, not complicated at all. The first person they asked to test it was their dad. They said their dad is an engineering PhD, in their eyes, he is completely asexual, because they never thought that their dad would get addicted to the hot or not issue.

However, their dad helped with the testing, and he never left the computer. He kept testing, this one 80, that one 60, that one 70, the old man was addicted to commenting. They named this website "Hot or Not." Why are people so enthusiastic about such a boring thing? This is social interaction. When this happens in society, where I exchange my likes for your likes, I give you a like, and you give me a like, once this virtual (social) currency appears, people are easily tied up.

So these six, enticing goals, positive feedback, effortless progress, gradually escalating challenges, tension of incompleteness, and social interaction, are the main reasons why we are controlled by game behavior. Once we understand this, the key question is how to solve it? How can we disengage from these hooks, so that we can lead a slightly healthier life, not gaining so much weight all at once?

For children, the first and most effective method is to let the children participate in activities that interact with nature. In one experiment, a group of children were gathered on an island, and then they were tested. What was tested? Interpersonal communication level. There are questions specifically asking you to determine whether a person is happy or not based on their expression. This questionnaire can measure a child's social ability. After the test, it was found that the scores were not very good.

Next, all mobile phones were confiscated. For four days, they camped on this island, survived in the wild, set up tents, and played various games close to nature.

Four days later, in just a short period of time, when they retook the entire test, everyone's scores improved significantly. This is the first method we mentioned, we need to allow children to return to the real world through interaction with nature. Children will enjoy this, they like to play, they like to play baseball.

Secondly, parents should learn to communicate face-to-face with their children, rather than solving problems with their children through WeChat. You know parents would also tend to use this, because using WeChat, expressing through text, seems to reduce pressure. If you're happy, just write "haha", if you're particularly happy, write "hahaha", just write more "ha" and express your emotions. But you don't have to show whether you're really happy or not in front of them, but if parents really want to have heart-to-heart communication with their children, you still have to communicate face-to-face.

Also, you should set screen usage time. The author says that children under three years old should try not to have contact with screens. That means no television, no mobile phones. But in today's society, it's hard to avoid screens, if it's difficult to avoid them, there are a few requirements. The first is that we need to pay more attention to the content on the screen with the child and link the content on the screen to the real world, which is a good way to use screens.

For example, after listening to a book, you ask him how to apply this book in life, or when he sees a pattern on the screen, look for this pattern in life, does it exist? Let him often link this with real life. Also, the duration must be limited, don't let it be too long.

When you have to use electronic screens, parents must pay attention to the following issues.

First, as we just mentioned, parents should encourage children to connect what they see in the screen world with their experiences in the real world.

Secondly, active participation is better than passive watching. If a child is just watching, that's called passive watching. If a child can participate and play along, it's different.

Third, the time in front of the screen should always focus on the content of the app, not the technology itself. Children watching a story unfold should explain what they think will happen next, identify characters on the screen, slowly progress, and not be fatigued by operating the technology. The story carried by the screen should imitate the experience of reading as much as possible. These are our suggestions for those who have to use screens.

So, let's see how the organization "Reboot" does this.

They say, in the first stage, patients are not allowed to use any technology. They usually have to go through three weeks of detoxification. This is not for all children, this is for those with severe internet addiction, this kind of approach is needed.

Next, in the second half of the first stage, which also lasts three to four weeks, the boys need to continue to live in the treatment center where they learn basic life skills that many people lack. Such as boiling eggs, cleaning toilets, making beds, and most importantly, personal emotional management.

Children with internet addiction tend to have relatively weaker ability to control personal emotions, and then they also learn, exercise, and embrace nature. This is an important part of the "Reboot" center, allowing them to get away from technology.

In the second stage, recovering patients are transferred to something like a halfway house managed by Alcoholics Anonymous. The patients study in the dormitory and apply the skills learned at the "Reboot" center. They apply for jobs or volunteer positions or take college courses, this is like a transit station, they have not fully returned to real life. They can be given some freedom, but they need to have companions, to be supervised, everyone is doing this.

The third, and last stage, begins when patients are ready to return to an unsupervised life, many will stay near this center. This way, every few weeks or months, they can return to the center for a review. Let me emphasize again, parents, this is not something to use on our children, it is only used for severe internet addicts and preferably under the guidance of professionals.

There have been many tragedies on TV, where parents send their children to a forced internet addiction center, it's too cruel. This absolutely cannot be done through physical abuse or electrocution, it will result in a psychological trauma of being abused in addition to internet addiction. It might even create a sense of estrangement between the child and the parents, most importantly, it greatly diminishes the child's self-worth. That's completely wrong, so never use such disrespectful methods to help children quit internet addiction.

Finally, prevention is much more effective than correction. When you discover that a child is already addicted to the internet, trying to correct it becomes much more difficult. But if you can prevent it in advance, it will be much better.

The most effective method to prevent a child from becoming addicted to the internet is called Motivational Interviewing. What is motivational interviewing? In fact, it's something we've talked about in a book called "Coaching Excellence". You'll find out how important asking questions is. When we tell a child, you should do this and that, you shouldn't do this and that, it feels like a judgement, like a top-down directive to the child, making him feel very uncomfortable.

And when his self-esteem is hurt, he doesn't want to change. What's an effective approach? What is your goal? What is the purpose of you doing this? You know that doing this might have some negative effects, so do you have any alternatives? Can we negotiate a way to help you get through this difficult time? At this time, you'll find that if you regard him as the protagonist in solving the problem, allowing him to participate in it, setting new goals, finding a direction.

You are just the one helping him, and this motivational interviewing is proven to be a very effective way for children.

I have heard many of our book friends feedback to me that their children, after listening to many of the books we've reviewed, have slowly stopped looking at their phones and started reading books. Why? Quite simply, when we let children know that there are so many things in the world worth pursuing, greater goals, so much great knowledge to learn, children will take responsibility for themselves.

Everyone doesn't want their life to get worse, everyone hopes they can continually improve. But in our past living environment, no one told them that there are so many broad things in this world, so much knowledge that needs to be pursued. The communication between parents and them all day long is that you shouldn't do this, you shouldn't do that, what you do is wrong, that is wrong.

When a child finds that no matter what he does is wrong, he has no sense of accomplishment, his only sense of achievement comes from the phone. There, I'm a hero, I've scored a lot, I have a lot of equipment, so sometimes our improper education methods push children from the real world into the virtual world. I hope you can learn this.

To increase the child's self-esteem, let him take responsibility for his own life, then he may truly be able to stay away from symptoms of internet addiction. Speaking of which, a slight internet addiction is acceptable, many adults in our lives have this problem. Think about it, right?

So, relax a bit, it's very important for parents to relax. How to change a habit? As we just mentioned, it's hard to change. So, how to change a habit is just like quitting smoking. The book also mentions, those who readily resort to willpower are bound to fail first. When you want to solve a problem through willpower, it indicates that in your subconscious, you think it is a good thing, that's why you would use willpower to do it.

The other day a friend of mine sent a WeChat message, and I found it quite amusing. His mom had to go on a business trip, and she said, "I'm going on a business trip, and I won't be able to accompany you, you'll eat with your dad."

The child replied, "So, can I eat the things you don't allow me to eat?"

His mom said, "What do you like to eat?"

The child said, "I like everything you don't let me eat."

This is the principle - the more you suppress him, the more you don't let him eat, the more he thinks that thing is rare and interesting. So when we take a conservative attitude towards this, it actually promotes addiction. But if you are a little more open-minded and can discuss this issue, not treating it as a disaster, it will be much simpler.

Another is to replace bad habits with good ones. You know, some people have a habit of biting their nails, a psychological problem. What's the best way to solve the nail-biting problem? It's not to say "I won't bite", but to give them something else to do. The most effective is to give them a stress ball, so when they want to bite their nails, they squeeze the stress ball instead. People chew gum when they quit smoking, why? Because they have something to do. If your mouth is busy, it replaces the habit. So if we say our phones or games are addictive, what we do as a replacement is very important.

There was even someone who invented a product, which I think is particularly creative, called Realism. What is Realism? It's a transparent phone, the same size as an iPhone, that you can tuck in your pocket. When you really want to check your phone, you touch it and your dopamine is already released. But when you take it out, it's transparent, completely transparent from here to there. So, what you see with this phone is the real world, hence the name, Realism.

This thing can effectively help people reduce their use of phones. I'm not sure if it's reliable, but you can give it a try.

Another thing I believe is effective is to change your way of speaking. Don't say, "I can't play with my phone" or "I can't play games." Change it to "I don't play with my phone" or "I don't play games". Changing "can't" to "don't" makes a big difference. When you say you "can't", you are being controlled by others. You're helpless, like a prisoner. But when you say "I don't", you're the protagonist. This little hint can make a huge difference to our habits.

Another tip is to change your environment. I often use this method. At night when I go to sleep, I charge my phone downstairs, I don't put it in my bedroom, that's changing the environment.

We've learned from "Switch" that when reading, I move the phone further away, throwing it into the bedroom. Then you'll find it's much better, you're living in a world without a phone. Changing the environment is a way.

There's also the use of negative feedback. Many past psychological correction methods made you feel nauseous - when you do something and immediately feel sick, you quickly stop doing it. This is a bit too harsh.

Another form of negative feedback is to make a promise to your friends. Say if they see you playing games, you will donate money to a particular organization, preferably one you really dislike. This is also a method of negative feedback.

If you're too hooked, always being drawn in by the Zeigarnik effect, then learn to dismantle this stumbling block. How to do it? For example, you want to watch a TV series, you've finished the first episode and there's another hook. What to do? No worries, watch the beginning of the second episode, just five minutes, watch this hook and then turn it off, no more. You set the breaking point yourself, finish that hook, end.

This can save a lot of time. These are some methods to help us change habits. The last part of this book talks about how to use behavioural addiction to do good. I won't talk about it, because it is completely repeated in another book we've discussed, "Reality is Broken", which tells us how to use gamification to make the world better.

Even the examples used here are the same, you'll find our authors overlap, and they refer to each other.

Finally, to conclude, I think the greatest benefit this book offers us is understanding how addiction is designed. I hope everyone can control their desires and not use these addictive methods.

Because I think, that's not a good business model. That kind of business model causes a lot of damage to society. If we're hooked by them in this commercial world and have various addictive phenomena, I hope everyone can learn one thing: to enhance self-esteem.

When we can effectively improve our self-esteem, you pursue, say, Confucius's level, Laozi's level, you read more profound books. You know that people can transcend these desires, these inert ways of life, I think it will be much easier to let go of these addictive things. It's like taking off a pair of uncomfortable shoes, without having to muster extreme willpower to stop ourselves from doing this.

So, I hope this book can help millions of families affected by addiction. I also hope that after many children have finished this book, they know that we are not the ones controlled by others, we are the ones who decide our own lives.

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