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Experts Link Smartphone 'Pull-To-Refresh' Feature To Slot Machine Design

Claire Reid

| Last updated 

Experts Link Smartphone 'Pull-To-Refresh' Feature To Slot Machine Design

If your first reaction to any lull in a social situation is to immediately produce the phone, open Facebook and swipe to see if anything new has happened, then join the queue.

We're all as guilty as each other on this one, folks. Despite knowing that we have literal notifications designed to notify us of when something of interest has happened - and knowing how annoyed we get about notifications that have nothing at all to do with us - we still obsessively produce the smartphone whenever the slightest pang of boredom strikes.

Well, it should come as no surprise at all that this isn't something that we do by accident. Smartphones, not to mention the apps on them, are designed to hold our attention for as long as possible and for us to spend the maximum amount of time within their grasp.


The business plan of Facebook and Twitter, the reason by which it remains free to users like us, is that they can charge advertisers based on how long we're staring at them.

The pull and refresh feature on Facebook and Twitter is the best example of this. We look at something, it bores us, so we pull and refresh in the hope that something more entertaining has happened in the nano-second since it last updated.

It won't shock a soul to hear that such a feature has been ripped straight from the playbook of the master machine as far as maintaining the attention of punters is concerned; gambling.


Credit: PA

Adam Alter, an expert in addictive technologies and the brain behind a new book on the phenomenon called Irresistible, told VICE Magazine: "The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked.

"You pull the lever to win a prize, which is an intermittent action linked to a variable reward. Variable meaning you might win, or you might not. In the same way you refresh your Facebook updates to see if you've won. Or you swipe right on Tinder to see if you've won.


"The delay, and the expectation, is part of the psychological experience - 'What am I going to get this time?' Will there be a notification and something new this time?'

"The app doesn't actually need to 'load'. It could tell instantly if there's a new notification - but that would not give us those few moments of anticipation that we all crave."

It's nice to know that our feeling that we're addicted to our smartphones is backed up by the real-life science of addictions. It also makes us feel slightly dirty. Better check the phone to see if anyone else feels like we do...

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: News, Technology

Claire Reid
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