Best Places For a First Date (Backed by Science)

You have to build attraction on the first date.

If you do that well, then a second date will follow.

So what makes for a great date?

Masculine personality traits, (learned) charisma, sharp wit and charm all aside…

The place you choose to go to is hugely important.

The Rollercoaster Ride Experiment

Why are rollercoasters a great place for a date?

Here’s Dr. David Lewis, author of Impulse to give you some insight:

“I first studied the potent relationship between roller-coasters and sexual arousal some 30 years ago. In my research I equipped couples with heart-rate monitors as they were about to board a ride and divided them into two groups.

Couples in the first group sat side by side while those in the second were separated and placed next to strangers. The results were surprising.

Those seated beside their partner not only experienced higher hearts rates throughout the ride, but also reported heightened physical attraction to one another.

They were far more physically demonstrative on leaving the ride, holding hands, cuddling and embracing.

The couples who had been separated experienced slightly lower heart rates and were less physically attracted and close after the ride.

The greater the thrill experienced in the presence of one’s partner the greater the impact on emotional and sexual excitement.”

That’s pretty awesome – you now know a secret about building emotional and sexual excitement.

So what underpins this excitement?

Here’s David:

“The key lies in the surge of the powerful ‘fight-or-flight’ hormone adrenalin which is triggered by the speed, the turns and above all the sudden increase in G-force to which people are subjected on a modern roller-coaster. The more thrilling and nerve-tingling the ride, the grater the adrenalin release and the bigger the sexual buzz.”

 

The Shaky Bridge Experiment

Adrenalin and sexual arousal… hmmm.

What’s the commonality here?

Allow me to present another study that fully explains this nuance.

There were two bridges.

One of the bridges is the Capilano Canyon Suspension bridge which is made of wooden boards that are merely attached to wire cables.

It sways in the wind, wobbles when you walk across it, and is 70 metres above the river.

This is the scary bridge.

Not too far away from this bridge is another, safer walkway; this one is more sturdy and isn’t suspended as high as the Capilano bridge.

In a famous experiment by researchers Dutton and Aron (1974), male participants were asked to walk across both the scary bridge and the safer bridge.

In both instances, a very attractive female “experimenter” awaited the men in the centre of the walkways to reward their valiant and brave effort with a… meagre survey.

The female “experimenter” would give the men her phone number to call her if “they had any further questions.”

The men who crossed the scary bridge were more likely to call the lady.

Why?

Crossing the bridge no doubt elevated their heart beat, stressed them out, and flooded their bodies with adrenaline.

These fundamental changes in physiology, this arousal, was obviously caused by the scary, shaky bridge.

But these guys misattributed their arousal from the bridge for arousal (i.e. attraction) for the woman.

In other words, it’s as if they psychologically chalked up all this emotion to being caused by the woman.

The Best Place to Go Out on a Date

Here’s behavioural economist Dan Ariely:

“With noise and people all around them, daters are likely to feel a much higher level of arousal, and, most important, they may misattribute this emotional state to the person they’re with. (Social scientists call this “misattribution of emotions.”).

To the extent that people confuse the emotions created by the environment with the emotions created by the person sitting next to them, going out to loud, busy places could be a winning strategy.

Just imagine leaving a bar after two hours where, during the entire time, the person with you was certain that the strong emotional feeling that he/she experienced was all stemming from you.”

-Dan Ariely, Behavioural Economics Saved My Dog

Not only can noisy places mask awkward silences but these silences can easily be chalked down to being in the now, soaking in the vibe, enjoying the music that is blaring out from the stereo.

Or giving your voice a rest from talking over the music.

Also, you can get physically closer and engage in kino escalation.

It gives plausible deniability for you to talk directly into your date’s ear.

The best thing about loud, stimulating, exciting environments however has to do with arousal and misattributing it to your partner.

The Rickshaw Ride

It’s not as fine and dandy as that though.

It’s not as clear cut as one would like.

And here’s a story to show you how one dude tried to use this insight to his advantage but failed miserably.

Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist at Rutgers University and chief scientific adviser to the dating site Match.com, tells the story of a guy suffering from unrequited love and his feeble attempt at trying to win her over using the power of science.

Having read some of Fisher’s work, the guy thought to himself that if he exposed this girl to a novel situation, he’d be able to drive up the dopamine levels in her brain and perhaps trigger brain system responsible for romantic love.

So he decided to take the girl out for a rickshaw ride together.

A rickshaw ride can be quite exhilarating, especially in London. The rider can manuovre in between the buses and cars and trucks; it’s noisy and it’s crazy.

It’s incredibly stimulating.

The chick screams and shouts and squeezes the guy and once the ride is over she squeals out laughing “what a rush, and wasn’t that rickshaw driver handsome!”

Closing thoughts

It’s still worth keeping a list of emotionally-arousing scenarios for potential future dates.

Like I mentioned earlier, going to a noisy place or going on a rickshaw ride all provide opportunities for easy kino (i.e. lingo for ‘kinestetic’, or touch).

Another example can include watching horror movies together where there is an opportunity for comfort via a hug or a squeeze (unless you don’t handle horrors too well.)

Here’s David:

“In 1989 scientists [Cohen, Waugh, and Place (1989)] conducted a somewhat similar piece of research, this time in a cinema. They studied sexual attraction and arousal among couples who had just seen one of two types of film. One was nail-biting, highly arousing suspense movie, the other a far less arousing film. The researchers found that the couples who had viewed the suspense film were far more likely to be touching, holding, embracing and kissing one another than those leaving the less exciting movie.”

Or watching boxing or UFC together – that surely will get your blood pumping!

Fundamentally though, it’s all about arousal being mistakenly attributed to you and being interpreted as attraction to the other person.

Or as Dr. David Lewis puts it “arousal from the roller-coaster ride, the flimsy bridge, or the scary film – is mistaken for sexual excitement provoked by another person.

P.S. Thanks for reading. If you liked this, feel free to sign up to my free weekly newsletter for more psychological insights into everyday life.

 

 

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Can a Deadline Be a Lifeline?

Let’s not fool ourselves.

Deadlines help us get work done.

They add pressure, a sense of urgency, and fuel us with stress hormones so that we can rise up to the challenge.

Scott Belsky in Making Ideas Happen says that constraints such as deadlines, “help us manage our energy and execute ideas.”

“While our creative side intuitively seeks freedom and openness, our productivity desperately requires restrictions (…) Constraints serve as kindling for execution. When you’re not given constraints, you must seek them.”

It’s hard to disagree – you and I both know it’s when we have our backs against the wall that we produce our best work.

The electric guitar, of all things, helps us realise this.

What an electric guitar can teach us about productivity

In Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind, designer and typographer Stefan Sagmeister talks about creative constraints and how they can be helpful in getting stuff done.

Here’s Stefan:

“I think that any kind of limitation is useful. Any kind of limitation that is clear, and that’s there from the beginning.

Brian Eno has this wonderful little quote about the electric guitar. He says the electric guitar became the dominant instrument of the twentieth century simply because it’s such a stupid instrument.

It can do so very little.

But it can do a few things very, very well, and therefore it allows human nature to go to the edge of what’s possible.”

Stefan is known for his unorthodox approach to creativity but I think the guitar analogy is pretty poignant, don’t you?

Limitations help us tap into what we’re really good at.

And sometimes, you find yourself in situations where you have no choice but to tapped into that – or else it’s game over.

Death ground

Sun Tzu, the author of “The Art of War” spoke of a death-ground.

He would position armies in situations where they had no choice but to fight for their lives.

They were often placed in trapped areas where they had to muster every ounce of will and courage to fend for themselves and ultimately survive.

They would have to beat the opposing armies or they would be slaughtered.

They had to kill or be killed.

Sun Tzu calls this strategy “death ground”.

Robert Greene, author of Mastery, defines death ground as “any set of circumstances in which you feel enclosed and without options.”

In situations in which you have no options, you summon the very best of your abilities to ensure you get yourself out of the situation.

The intensity of such an experience makes you dig into the deepest corridors of your mind, looking for the best solutions.

Ultimately, when you have no choice but to act – you act.

It’s when we have our back against the wall, when we’re on death-ground that we produce our best work.

What happened in the aftermath of the 2012 earthquake that hit the city of Modena, Italy is a testament to that.

Parmesan Cheese

Factories collapsed.

House were flattened.

Historic structures crashed down.

But the earthquake threatened the entire local economy.

Following the aftermath of the earthquake, a distraught Parmesan producer approached Massimo Bottura, the three-Michelin-star chef of the world renowned restaurant Osteria Francescana, to inform him that the earthquake damaged 360,000 wheels of Parmesan.

The producer stressed that if they didn’t come up with a solution quickly, the damaged wheels of Parmesan would spoil.

Parmesan producers would become bankrupt and many people would lose their jobs.

Livelihoods were at stake.

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Massimo was determined to find a solution to help the producers sell everything they’d produced.

There was little time and even less room for error.

Massimo had to come up with an idea.

This is how a recipe called Risotto Cacio e Pepe was created – a recipe combining the damaged Parmigiano Reggiano, rice, and the flavours of a classic Roman pasta dish.

People all over the world enjoyed this unconventional meal.

Importantly, Massimo managed to sell all 360,000 wheels while simultaneously raising awareness about the consequences of the earthquake.

Not one person had lost their job and not a single cheese maker had to declare bankruptcy.

Massimo called this a recipe of “social justice.”

When a deadline can be a lifeline

You can do more than you think you can.

You can do more than you think you’re capable of.

But you have to be put under pressure to just funnel all your efforts and channel it into laser focus.

Whether we like it or not, we humans operate best under tight deadlines.

This is what Scott McDowell who runs the consulting and executive search firm CHM Partners writes in Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind:

“Many creative directors, designers, and architects often say their best work stems directly from specific client restrictions. Having a set of parameters puts the brain in problem-solving mode; there’s something to grip.

It may seem counterintuitive, but too big a playing field can muddle the results. Frank Lloyd Wright insisted that constraints historically have resulted in a flowering of the imagination:

‘The human race built most nobly when limitations were greatest and, therefore, when most was required of imagination in order to build at all.’

Whether or not they’re created by an outside client or you yourself, a set of limitations is often the catalyst that sets creativity free.”

What you can do

Throw your dwindling productivity, your fleeting creativity a lifeline.

By using deadlines to your advantage.

Put yourself on death-ground

You act when you have no choice.

Make yourself have no choice.

Schedule immediate deadlines for sooner rather than later

Work towards the immediate checkpoints.

Break the big deadline up into little deadlines.

Break goals into little sub-goals.

By doing this, you are putting yourself into problem solving mode.

Here’s Dr. Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation:

“To get motivated, they [procrastinators] need a clear and close finish line (…); as delay shrinks, motivation peaks. To apply this principles to your life, you need a concrete and exact notion of what needs to be done because vague and abstract goals (such as ‘Do your best!’) rarely lead to anything excellent. The level of detail required differs from person to person but you should be able to sense when you’ve go enough. Goals should have a corporeal rather than an ethereal feel – you should be able to sink your teeth into them. ‘Complete my last will and testament before flying on the 15th’ is an achievable goal. ‘Get my finances together’, not so much. After creating a specific finish line, schedule it soon. You may need to break up a long-term project into a series of smaller steps.

Use focus blocks

If you have large uninterrupted free block of time, you will typically procrastinate until you start feeling guilty or start feeling the pressure – only then you have no choice but to finally begin.

Why not rethink free blocks of time altogether.

The answer: focus blocks.

Can deadlines be a lifeline?

It’s up to you.

 

P.S. Thanks for reading. If you liked this, feel free to sign up to my free weekly newsletter for more psychological insights into everyday life.

 

Review: How to Click With Anybody (Backed by Science)

So you’ve just started university and are already looking for ways to maximize the amount of value you can extract from this new experience.

Or you’re heading into your final year.

Whatever the situ, make no mistake – there are many opportunities ahead of you that are yours for the taking.

University is a platform that offers tons of possibilities and it would be useful if you were to extract a lot of value from it.

A month before starting my university experience, I read Click: The Power of Instant Connections by Ori and Rom Brafman.

click.png

This was an insightful book that made me more cognisant of the social powers that be and learnt how to build rapport with almost anyone, and what were the ingredients to a meaningful conversation.

People think that clicking with someone is rare.

After reading this book and putting the ideas into practice, I quickly found out that these unique connections don’t have to be rare at all.

It’s important that you know of these things heading into uni, especially if you’re just starting out.

Especially if you’re just starting college because everybody else is new and is just about as equally open to new connections as you are.

Make use of this opportunity to stand out in a social free for all that are these first few weeks at university; before people start to gel together and form their own little cliques.

The book can be distilled into 5 accelerators of rapport building

There are 5 accelerators of rapport building: Vulnerability, Proximity, Resonance, Similarity, and Safety.

I’ll go into only 3 of those.

Power of Proximity

There’s no doubt that you’ll form friendships with people you live close to (e.g. in a dorm), or sit next to in class.

The physically closer people are, the emotionally closer you are.

This just boils down to the fact that you’re more likely to exchange passive communication cues (e.g. nod, smile, wave) and have unplanned conversations with one another when you run into each other.

It really is as simple as that.

Science backs this insight, too.

Leon Festinger found that students in MIT dorms who lived at the end of the corridors were more likely to be social outsiders with fewer connections than students who lived right in the middle of the complex.

Students who lived in the middle of the dormitory or near the stairwells were more likely to be the most popular people simply because they were more likely to bump into people and engage in spontaneous communication.

Dorm rooms were randomly allocated and – interestingly – personality tests showed that all students weren’t much different to one another.

Bottom line:

If you find yourself living in the middle of a dormitory, near a common kitchen, or near a stairwell  – you’re in luck.

But if you don’t, you’ll have to put in conscious effort to make sure you’re not missing out too much on the social opportunities that the ‘middlemen’ are enjoying.

Such is life – some have it easier and some have to work harder just to level the playing field.

Power of Vulnerability

Being able to open up to someone is special.

Obviously, you have to be calibrated when you do it.

Don’t go telling your deepest, darkest secrets to people you’ve just met.

Anyway.

According to Ori and Rom Brafman, there are 5 types of conversations you can have, all of which vary in degrees of vulnerability:

Phatic

Phatic communication includes “how are you?” and social niceties and a general diplomatic approach.

In terms of a vulnerability scale, this is barely scratching the surface.

But it’s an essential part of every conversation – it opens up new avenues for your chat and preps you for whatever lies ahead.

Factual

This is where you share personal facts about one another.

“Where are you from?” and that sort of thing.

Evaluative

Evaluation communications pertains to expressing your views about something in order to find out who shares the same values as you do and who doesn’t.

It’s a natural selection of sorts to find who you’ll gel with from the get go.

For example, if you say “I’ve never enjoyed the opera” to someone who equally dislike the opera, both of you will be more drawn to each other because you share this in common.

Depending on the view you express, the relationship with the person you are speaking with will be positively or negatively affected.

Gut-level

This is where inner fears and weakness are revealed and where rapport, trust, and loyalty are built as a consequence.

This type of conversation allows you to connect with someone on a deeper, more meaningful level.

Peak

This is where deepest desires and wishes, and innermost thoughts and feelings are revealed.

In the book, the Brafman brothers analyse Bill Clinton’s success in his 1992 presidential campaign.

He was trailing badly behind other candidates (one of which was George Bush).

Bill Clinton was an afterthought.

But then he started going to talk shows, opening up about his personal life.

That he was raised by a single parent. That he had an alcohol father and a drug addict brother.

He showed he was vulnerable. He showed that he was above all else – only human.

And this is how he connected with audiences.

By the end of his talk show campaign his rating went from 33% to 77% in a single month.

Bottom line:

What Never Eat Alone author Keith Ferrazzi says about vulnerability is spot on:

The first thing small-talk experts tend to do is place rules around what can and can’t be said. They claim that when you first meet a person, you should avoid unpleasant, overly personal, and highly controversial issues.

Wrong! Don’t listen to these people! Nothing has contributed more to the development of boring chitchatters everywhere. The notion that everyone can be everything to everybody at all times is completely off the mark.

When it comes to making an impression, differentiation is the name of the game. Confound expectation. Shake it up. How? There’s one guaranteed way to stand out in the professional world: Be yourself. I believe that vulnerability—yes, vulnerability—is one of the most underappreciated assets in business today.

It’s a call to be honest, open, and vulnerable enough to genuinely allow other people into your life so that they can be vulnerable in return.

The message here is that we can go through life, particularly conferences and other professional gatherings, making shallow, run-of-the-mill conversation with strangers that remain strangers. Or we can put a little of ourselves, our real selves, on the line, give people a glimpse of our humanity, and create the opportunity for a deeper connection. We have a choice.

Power of resonance

What is resonance? It sounds like a wishy-washy psychology concept.

But how else would you describe those social experiences with people who you just talk to and the conversation is so smooth and effortless.

There’s this intangible quality that you can’t quite put your finger on, almost like a magnetic energy about the person that makes you gravitate towards him or her.

The natural connectors.

Imagine a conversation with one of these connectors.

You two are talking and you’re suddenly in a bubble – time, other people around you, missed calls and texts don’t matter.

In other words, you’re in flow – the deepest, most powerful level of connection during which a sense of euphoria is experienced.

This is resonance – enjoying a magnetic quality with another person and being emotionally or energetically connected with them.

In Click: The Power of Instant Connections, Ori and Rom Brafman suggest that in order to create that resonance, you have to be present.

Natural connectors through being present are able to create presence.

There are four components to being present:

~ Giving someone your undivided attention (i.e. intentionality),

~ Being genuine and authentic (i.e. individuality),

~ Being able to acknowledge how they see things in a non-judgemental way (i.e. mutuality) and,

~ Really wanting to understand where someone is coming from through active listening (i.e. attentiveness).

Maybe it sounds a bit reductionist to try and simplify an ethereal concept such as resonance to a few categories to make it seem more formulaic.

But I can understand how these aspects might be some important building blocks into capturing that resonance with somebody.

Be a social chameleon (while still being true to yourself)

People who can easily adapt to a particular environment or make adjustments to their behavioural repetoire to better suit a particular personality are more likely to be able to create this resonance with someone while still be true to themselves.

The Brafman brothers call these socially malleable people high self-monitors.

These social chameleons of sorts usually have a high degree of emotional intelligence and naturally mirror and match the other person’s body language, energy, and tone of voice.

This is one of the ways high self-monitors build rapport with someone on a more subconscious level.

Closing thoughts

This book opened my eyes.

Some of it is basic, I know.

Some of it perhaps a little profound.

But I think this book makes you more attuned to the social nuances that govern networking and relationship-building.

 

And this gives you an edge in building strong, lasting relationships with almost anyone.

 

P.S. Thanks for reading. If you liked this, feel free to sign up to my free weekly newsletter.

 

 

 

 

Build Systems to Reach Your Goals

December 31st, 2013 – I told myself I’d read 12 books.

A whole year later, I’d read only 8 books.

So I made the same New Year’s Resolution again and still fell short of the mark another year later.

Two years in a row I failed at the same old resolution.

So on December 31st, 2015 – I told myself that I’m going to forget about making any other resolutions and vowed that I would completely focus on hitting my goal of reading books for the year.

But not 12 this time, but 15.

Why I failed 2 years in a row

I really wanted to read consistently.

I thought that by making a New Year’s Resolution, it’d be enough to read 12 books in the year.

One book a month – doesn’t sound too bad, right?

But this is why I failed two years in a row.

It’s because the goal was to read 12 books.

No specifics on how to do that, no system to carry me towards achieving my long-term goal.

Setting a big goal like that without having a plan on how to do it is setting yourself up for failure.

What’s different this year

So far – I’ve read 12 books this year.

How’d I do it?

What’s different is that I have a system that’s helping me achieve my goal.

And my system is this:

Always read on the train (to and fro university, work, whatever)

Always read when in transit (Eurostar, plane, whatever)

THAT’S IT.

It seems vague but I travel everyday.

And if I can read 10 pages one way and another 10 pages on my way back home – that’s some decent chunk of reading done.

To get even more reading done, I just to fill empty pockets of time by reading an e-book on my phone.

Waiting for the lift, waiting for a meeting, waiting for a friend etc.

That’s my system.

All there is to it.

Goals seem like insurmountable mountains to climb; systems are the baby steps that will actually get you to the top.

What system can you create for yourself to make sure you hit your goals?

Post some thoughts in the comments below and remember to subscribe for a weekly newsletter.

P.S. Thanks for reading.

Why am I Addicted to Pokèmon Go? The Full Psychology Behind the Game

 

 

Pokèmon Go has been quite the phenomenon.

It is the newest craze that has managed to garner more followers in the 5 days since its initial release than Twitter managed to in the 5 years since its inception.

People are spending over 43 minutes a day playing Pokèmon Go, which is higher than Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat, or Messenger.

People even shunned Justin Bieber in favour of collecting a rare Pokèmon…

But make no mistake – Pokèmon Go has been built on the shoulder of giants.

But it’s not the overnight success people first thought it was.

Niantic, the developer of Pokèmon Go, made a previous game about finding cool places in the real world called Ingress.

Ingress players would submit their favourite locations to the game and Pokèmon Go uses some of these landmarks.

Downloaded around 12 million times, it was the ideal training ground for Niantic to experiment with the core game mechanics that we’ve come to enjoy in Pokèmon Go – the #1 most downloaded app in the App Store.

In addition, Niantic was a Google Company which explains the innovative Augmented Reality (AR) feature and rich geolocation data that makes Pokèmon Go so unique.

But what makes Pokèmon Go so addictive?

The game has been built on the foundation of some the most basic psychological core principles.

It has been engineered to hook you.

And it’s hooked millions of players.

In this post, you will find out how they did it.

Nostalgia

By playing this game you are transported back to a time when you were a child who fell in love with Pokèmon.

When I downloaded Pokèmon Go I was back in the mind of my young self, joyous at catching my first Pokèmon.

I was transported back to a time when I was throwing Zubat Pokèmon cards around my room just because they were flying-type Pokèmon.

Back to a time where I was imagining the most detailed of battlegrounds when all I had was the edge of my bed, a stack of Pokèmon cards, and a child’s vivid imagination.

The game’s developers are now capitalising on whatever emotional attachment we had with these lovable creatures in the past.

It’s a bit like a sequel to a beloved first film, where most of the marketing has already been done before.

After all, the Pokèmon brand enjoys an unparalleled legacy.

Nobody had to persuade you too much to download the game – your buying temperature is already high.

This is in great part thanks to nostalgia.

The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) defines nostalgia as “a sentimental longing for the past.”

Indeed, nostalgia is a bittersweet emotion.

Nostalgia combines the pleasant memory of the past with the cold realisation that a desirable aspect of that past is irredeemably lost.

When experiencing nostalgia, we experience both joy and a sense of loss as the past can no longer be recreated.

But the beautiful thing about Pokèmon Go is that we can relive our childhood memories and our childhood fantasies of becoming a real Pokèmon trainer.

What was once lost has been found.

Though our childhood years may be long gone, a big part of it is back.

The inner child in all of us couldn’t be any happier.

Buying Temperature

Think of buying temperature as your loyalty to the Pokèmon brand and any prior investment in it, whether it be financial, emotional, or otherwise.

You’ve made so much prior personal investment into the Pokèmon brand when you were a child.

You had all the cards, played the Game Boy games, collected stickers for the sticker albums, and maybe even had a few Pokèmon key rings.

Pokèmon Go is an extension of all of that; a new spin on the whole thing.

It makes sense that you and I will want to play Pokèmon Go.

In the same vein, WWE – the world’s most prestigious wrestling and sports entertainment promotion – signs old wrestlers from 10 years ago to wrestle for the promotion once again so that they bring back old audiences that used to watch the product.

Rightfully so, fans around the world call these wrestlers nostalgia acts.

From the get go, you and I will be heavily invested in Pokèmon Go as we get to relive our childhoods and witness Pokèmon jump out of nostalgic reverie and back into the real world.

Music and SFX as Positive Affect

The Gameboy-like music and sound effects in Pokèmon Go play on our nostalgia, transporting us to a time where we used to play Pokèmon on our Gameboy.

Just listening to the music and sounds allows us to experience feelings of joy and elation.

But also it brings back fond memories, positive emotions, and feelings of immersion associated with the Pokèmon games we used to play on Game Boy.

That’s very smart multi-sensory stimulation from Niantic.

It’s a nice touch.

You get to be Ash Ketchum

By playing Pokèmon Go, you are the Pokèmon trainer.

You are the main actor in this Pokèmon world and your phone is your Pokèdex.

Essentially you are Ash Ketchum – a childhood dream come true.

Simplicity 

The ease of performing an action

The gameplay is so simple.

All you have to do is flick at your screen to throw a Pokèball and v’oila – you’ve just caught a Pokèmon.

As Nir Eyal in his book Hooked writes:

“Companies leverage two basic pulleys of human behaviour to increase the likelihood of an action occurring: the ease of performing an action and the psychological motivation to do it.”

As you’ve read already, the psychological motivation to play is centred around feelings of nostalgia.

The ease of performing the action (i.e. playing the game) facilitates the process of making playing this game a habit. Also, the learning curve is super low so anyone of any age can play.

The path of least resistance

But this simplicity is important for another reason.

It’s effortless to start playing and you can immerse yourself in the action quickly. In other words, you don’t have to think too much to start playing.

As Nir puts it:

“Reducing the thinking required to take the next action increases the likelihood of the desired behaviour occurring unconsciously.”

The game mechanics embrace the idea of the path of least resistance.

All you have to do is walk and when prompted – just flick at the screen to catch a Pokèmon.

What this means for your brain is that your rational part of the brain (i.e. you don’t have time to play now) and your impulsive side of the brain (i.e. I want to play now, now, now!) have very little time to talk to each other.

Just like using Paypal, contactless cards, or reaching your hand out to grab a little snack from a basket in front of the cash tills at Starbucks –  the ease to act in Pokèmon Go shortens the information relay time between System 1 (i.e. impulsive) and System 2 (i.e. rational).

A direct consequence of that means that there is a greater likelihood that you will give into your impulsive side!

The difference with Paypal or contactless is that once you’ve given into your impulsive side, all you have done is bought something on an impulse.

With Pokèmon Go – once you’ve started playing, the game is quick to immerse you in it.

Within seconds, you catch a Pokèmon. Within 5 minutes, I caught around 10 Pokèmon in my flat, it was crazy.

Awash with this new experience and reward, the game got me into a focused state which – in the words of Nir Eyal – “suppresses the areas of the brain associated with judgment and reason while activating the parts associated with wanting and desire.”

Pokèmon Go helps your impulsive side win.

A Play on Our Emotions

Novelty bias

If curiosity is supposed to get you through the door, then novelty and salience are meant to keep you inside the room.

The game uses novel, cutting-edge technology in the form of Augmented Reality (AR) which allows to enjoy the thrill of catching Pokèmon that are directly in front of you – either in your room or your favourite pub or coffee shop – as if they were real life creatures.

But it’s not just the technology that inspires this novelty.

It’s the fact that you constantly discover and capture new Pokèmon.

This novelty plays on our natural reflexes as humans.

That is, we exhibit a novelty bias to unfamiliar, novel things around us.

Novelty captures our attention.

And this is why we’ll always notice shiny objects in the corner of our eye.

Millenia ago, this bias served our predecessors well as it predisposed them to notice things that were out of the ordinary in their immediate environment, for better (e.g. animals as a potential meal) or for worse (e.g. danger).

For this reason, novelty can be quite gripping. That’s why whenever we encounter something new, whether that is a first Sudoku puzzle or a shiny diamond ring in a shop, our cognitive processes are enhanced, especially in learning contexts.

But the most important thing about new things is that they’re simply very rewarding.

In fact, a paper by Bianca Wittman and colleagues found that “novelty stimulates explorative behaviour in humans as a potential mechanism to predict reward.”

In other words, by focusing our attention at novels things in the environment, we’re bound to find something rewarding.

And when we do, the novelty- and reward-seeking centres of the brain (i.e. our impulsive parts of the brain) become activated, causing a burst of endogenous opioids.

Obviously, we’ll continue to chase that high – we’re only human.

Salience

Salient things (i.e. things that stand out) capture our attention, too.

Pokèmon appearing in front of you is so unusual and so out of the ordinary that it is bound to do so.

But there is a lot of salience in local pubs, bars, coffee shops being Pokèstops or Gyms where you can battle with other Pokèmon.

A place in the area you live is a Pokèstop?

It’s so out of the ordinary that it sticks in our mind.

Both novel and salient stimuli are placed in the forefront of our mind as they are prioritised in our psychological processing.

Scarcity

As I mentioned before, finding a Pokèmon you haven’t in the game seen before is a novelty and is very rewarding to our brain.

At the same time, we view this novel Pokèmon as scarce.

According to Commodity theory by Brock (1968) – scarcity enhances value.

You and I experience this when we run into a new Pokèmon we haven’t caught before.

Because it is scarce, it is more valuable and as a result more desirable.

Uncertainty

Uncertainty is potent when trying to catch it, especially if it’s a strong Pokèmon.

If it’s a strong scarce Pokèmon, it will most likely resist being caught by jumping out of the Pokèballs you throw at it.

Worst case scenario – it will run away.

This is what we fear.

Uncertainty creeps in when you throw the Pokèball at the Pokèmon and wait until it is caught or jumps out again.

While you wait as the Pokèball rolls around, trying to secure the newly caught Pokèmon, you experience short-term pain.

As humans, we are fundamentally motivated to seek pleasure and avoid pain.

Indeed, uncertainty is uncomfortable because it registers as pain in the brain, according to Olivia Fox Cabane, author of The Charisma Myth.

“[Uncertainty] registers almost like physical pain in the brain. There is a tension, a gap where the brain is not easy again until it is resolved.”

This places you under minor psychological strain and discomfort.

Because we are naturally averse to uncertainty, we strive to eliminate it as well as escape the uncomfortable sensation of discomfort it produces as soon as possible.

That is, we seek to achieve cognitive closure (i.e. the need for psychological relief resulting from a definite conclusion as opposed to confusion or ambiguity; Kruglanski & Webster, 1996).

“Two highly related tendencies are assumed to underlie this need, namely ‘urgency’, that is the need to arrive at closure quickly, and ‘permanency’, that is the need to remain at closure once it has been achieved.”

-Hewstone, Stroebe, and Jonas (2012)

Whenever a strong, scarce, and challenging Pokèmon appears, we feel pressured by a limited time frame to successfully catch it. We fear it might run away and we feel motivated to act swiftly.

And when we finally manage to catch that scarce, valuable, challenging Pokèmon – “Gotcha!” only accentuates the relief it by dramatising the catch.

The Power of Familiarity and Resonance

Sure, there’s a lot of novelty to Pokèmon Go.

With novelty comes the element of surprise when catching new Pokèmon, especially the ones you really liked as a kid.

For instance, I was actually genuinely happy to have caught a Machop. It was one of my favourite Pokèmon growing up.

Indeed, the more emotionally or energetically connected we feel to a Pokèmon, the deeper the resonance when catching them.

There’s a magnetic quality to this, which only further draws you into the game.

Psychologically, this is quite interesting.

There’s the novelty of catching Pokèmon which breeds excitement and there’s a familiarity with all of them that breeds regard.

By now, I’m sure you realise that Pokèmon Go elicits a lot of complex emotions.

As an aside – we humans inherently like familiarity.

In a world full of strangers we know nothing about, it’s a nice feeling to comes across a familiar face that we know is welcoming and harmless (Zajonc, 1968).

Plus – familiar faces require less neural resources to process by the brain, allowing for them to be more fluently processed.

If something is easily processed by the brain, the brain rewards us for it.

The Endowment Effect

As Barry Schwartz writes in The Paradox of Choice:

“Once something is given to you, it’s yours. Once it becomes part of your endowment, even after a few minutes, giving it up will entail a loss.”

This is called the endowment effect.

When we are given things, buy them, or catch them like in Pokèmon Go, we become invested in them. In Pokèmon Go, we derive a sense of ownership over whatever Pokèmon we catch.

However, not all Pokèmon were created equal – some are better, some are worse, and some of them get preferential treatment because they were the ones that we loved most as kids.

In Pokèmon Go, the endowment effect is most pronounced for Pokèmon we invest in via power ups and upgrades (e.g. evolving them), the ones we’ve had the longest, and the ones we are most emotionally invested in, for whatever reason.

Here’s Barry once again:

“The endowment effect helps explain why companies can afford to offer money-back guarantees on their products. Once people own them, the products are worth more to their owners than the mere cash value, because giving up the products would entail a loss.”

So if Niantic were to introduce a “trade my Pokèmon” option with other Pokèmon trainers, I don’t think it would work well and now you know why.

The value of the Pokèmon you would want to trade would be skewed in the same way that house owners overvalue houses they are looking to sell.

Generally speaking, house owners want to sell their houses for more than market value because they inflate it with their own sentiment and emotional attachment to them.

But also, trading in a Pokèmon you own for a Pokèmon owned by another person would be experienced as a loss (holding Combat Power equal).

This is called loss aversion. That is, we dislike losses more than we enjoy gains.

Perhaps it would work if a trading system were put in place beforehand.

Niantic would have to shy away from the general metric of Combat Power (CP) and weight the Pokèmon trading system a la currency exchange rates. For example, a single Hypno could be worth 3 Raticates.

Progress

Humans have an innate need to experience a sense of progress.

In Pokèmon Go, you are constantly advancing, always progressing.

You’re always gaining Experience Points (XP), always finding new Pokèmon and items etc.

At every part of the game – you feel a sense of progress and are rewarded for it.

Even when you are flicking a Pokèball to catch a Pokèmon, you are getting positive reinforcement in the form of words like “Great!”, “Nice!” or “Excellent!”

But sometimes there are lulls in the game where you’re just walking and not finding or catching anything.

If you were just sitting around and waiting to catch something, you’d become frustrated. That’s because we’re naturally averse to idleness (more on that later).

But by being idle, we open ourselves to rumination.

“Why aren’t I catching anything?” or “What’s going on?”

Here’s the fascinating part.

By walking, we feel that we are progressing, that we are in control of the situation, and are taking necessary steps (literally) to reach the end goal of catching a Pokèmon.

We don’t open ourselves to much rumination because we know that we just need to keep walking.

For this very reason, people at the airport prefer to walk to distant carousels to collect their luggage rather than wait at nearer carousels.

In the same vein, people are idle when waiting and because of an aversion to idleness, they start ruminating “why are we waiting so long”, “what if something happened to my luggage”, and so on.

Just like in Pokèmon Go, by walking – they feel that they are progressing.

You could even argue that people ruminate and use their imagination to conjure up potential scenarios and solutions to subconsciously feel a sense of progress in a situation when there isn’t any.

After all – when you ruminate, it’s like your mind is spinning.

Spinning is movement.

Movement is progress.

Sunk cost fallacy

Once we open a tub of ice cream, it’s easy to just finish to whole thing.

“I opened it – might as well just finish it off.”

If you were thinking of quitting smoking and you smoke a cigarette after a period of abstinence – you smoke another, and then another, and next thing you know it, you’re chain smoking.

“If I already broke my promise and smoked a cigarette – might as well smoke more.”

Such rationalisations can lead you into a behavioural downward spiral, whether it be overeating or chain smoking.

By opening a tub or smoking a cigarette, in our minds, we’ve made a mental commitment to either eating or smoking.

Once we’ve had a bit of ice cream, we’ve started a bit of momentum and the default state is to just go with the flow, and keep building that momentum until the tub is gone.

This behaviour is called the sunk cost fallacy. That is, we convince ourselves to continue a behaviour just because of our prior investment in that behaviour.

In Pokèmon Go, our default state is to just keep walking. We’ve made a mental commitment to go for a walk to catch some Pokèmon so we just keep on walking and keep on catching them.

“I’ll catch one more Pokèmon and then I’ll go home,” you might think. But then you catch it and then want to catch another, and then another…

Delayed gratification

Although Pokèmon Go has been designed to cater to our impulsive and irrational need for instant gratification but embedded in the game’s mechanics is a trigger that is designed to make you want to delay gratification.

Here are a few examples of how the game incentivises a delay of gratification:

Pokèmon eggs and incubators

For example, you place Pokèmon eggs in incubators. To hatch them and receive a new Pokèmon to your collection – all you have to do is walk.

Depending on the egg, it will hatch when you’ve covered a certain distance (e.g. 2 km).

But the incubator incentives you to cover more distance if you want to get a better Pokèmon.

In other words, hatching “5km” eggs will yield you a better Pokèmon that a hatching a “2km” egg.

It’s simple.

Walk more – get a better Pokèmon.

Pokèmon Candy

There is incentive to delay gratification when catching Pokèmon.

You have to collect a lot the same Pokèmon (e.g. a Pidgey) if you want to evolve that same Pokèmon.

So you wait and build up until you achieve that long-term goal.

Evolving your Pokèmon while using a Lucky Egg

You might catch enough of the same Pokèmon and choose to wait to evolve them until you have many Pokèmon to evolve.

You might delay gratification by saving up such Pokèmon until you feel it’s time to use your Lucky Egg to double the Experience Points (XP) you gain from evolving them.

This way, you put off the smaller-sooner reward of evolving one Pokèmon for the benefit of experiencing a larger-later reward of evolving many Pokèmon under much more enjoyable circumstances.

Magikarp

Let’s face it – Magikarp is a crappy Pokèmon.

But there is some incentive to practice delayed gratification.

If you catch 400 Magikarps and substitute them for 400 candy – then you’ll be able to evolve a Magikarp into a Gyarados, which is a rare and powerful Pokèmon.

Delayed gratification and goal-setting

The important thing to note about delayed gratification is that this is how our commitment to and investment in the game is enhanced.

We’re goal-oriented creatures and the game has no short supply of hurdles for us to jump over, rewarding us with medals, upgrades, items, and new Pokèmon once we manage to.

A game component that rewards delayed gratification is important because it plays on our Symbolic Self Awareness (Sedikides and Skowronski, 1997).

That is, it plays upon our ability to imagine future behaviours and their possible outcomes (like evolving a Pokèmon or catching rare on) before we can act them out in real life.

We will make projections into the future to see what we can achieve and immerse ourselves in present actions to reach those goals.

In a sense, we bounce back and forth between imagining our future self and immersing ourselves in the present to achieve that vision (Carver and Scheier, 1982) called this behaviour a discrepancy-reducing feedback loop.)

This is one of those things that will keep us heavily invested in the game by occupying our imagination and thoughts – even when we’re not playing.

I’m sure some kids are dreaming of Pokèmon while they are fast asleep after a long day of trying to catch ’em all.

Anticipatory pleasure

These future projections also build our anticipatory pleasure when we’re away from the game.

Anticipation of doing something is part of the experience.

It can be enjoyable in of itself.

In fact, you experience a surge of dopamine in the brain just by anticipating all the Pokèmon you’ll catch and manage to evolve!

The anticipation of the experience in itself is an experience (take that, Emmanuel Kant).

As behavioural economist Dan Ariely puts it:

“Holidays are not just about the two weeks you are away from work; they’re also about the time you spend anticipating and imagining your trip, as well as the time after the trip when you get to replay special moments from it in your mind.

Among these three ways of appreciating your holidays – anticipations, the trip itself, and enjoying the memories afterwards – the shortest amount of time is spent on the holiday itself.”

-Dan Ariely, Behavioural Economics Saved My Dog

Intermittent reward

Anticipatory pleasure comes from looking forward to that little hit.

The hit that will stimulate your brain to produce dopamine – a neurochemical that will make you feel good.

By playing Pokèmon Go, you’re getting a little hit here, a little hit there.

This is called intermittent schedules of reinforcement (a.k.a variable reward).

This concept takes root in the behavioural approach to psychology (i.e. behaviourism) and was coined by world-renowned American psychologist/behaviourist B. F. Skinner way back in the 1950’s.

In his research, Skinner would place rats in a box and reward them with a food pellet whenever they’d press the lever.

The rat would realise that every time it pressed the lever, it would be sweetly rewarded for its efforts. They’d get the same hit we’re getting whenever we capture a Pokèmon.

Whenever the rat was rewarded for its behaviour (i.e. pressing the lever) with tasty food, the rat would press the lever again and again. This is called positive reinforcement.

In contrast however, if the rat were to be shocked every time it pressed the lever – this would decrease the frequency of behaviour. This is called negative reinforcement.

But what Skinner found was that the rats would press the lever like crazy when they didn’t know when they were going to get their next reward. In fact, they’d press the lever compulsively when they were getting the food pellets at random.

They were endlessly chasing that hit, the high.

Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, conducted similar experiments on monkeys.

When the monkeys saw a signal, they would work and shortly afterwards get a reward.

But Sapolsky says that dopamine levels would sore when the monkeys saw the signal rather than when they received the reward. Sapolsky explains:

“Dopamine is not about pleasure. It’s about the anticipation of pleasure. It’s about the pursuit of happiness rather than happiness itself.”

Sapolsky also found that by rewarding via intermittent schedules, dopamine levels would go through the roof.

For instance, if the monkeys were rewarded 50% of the time, their dopamine responses to the signal would be much greater than their dopamine responses to the signal if they knew they would be rewarded 100% of the time.

Sapolsky says that through intermittent reward:

“You’ve introduced the word maybe into the equation. And maybe is addictive like nothing else out there.”

It’s all about the uncertainty of the reward.

Sapolsky goes on to say that if you block the rise of dopamine in monkeys, they won’t do the behaviour. “It’s not just about the anticipation,” Sapolsky says, “it’s also about eliciting goal-directed behaviour.”

So the reward doesn’t only give you feelings of pleasure but it also makes you do the behaviour necessary to make sure you experience these feelings.

In Pokèmon Go, you and I also don’t know when we’re going to catch the next Pokèmon.

That’s why we keep looking. That’s why we keep pressing the lever.

Sparse reward

In the beginning of Pokèmon Go, you are showered with various rewards (i.e. Pokèmon).

The rewards are frequent but intermittent, so you still don’t know what you’ll get, when you’ll get it.

But as you level up, have you noticed that these rewards are less and less frequent?

The reward has become sparsely distributed.

Here’s the deal.

To start the behaviour of playing in the first place, the game needs to reward us often and sweetly so that we want to keep playing it and keep enjoying the rewarding experiences it provides us with.

But once you’ve levelled up to, say, level 20, slightly different rules apply to you.

By now, playing Pokèmon Go has become somewhat of an automatic response, almost – if not already – a habit.

But also, you’ve invested so much time and effort into the game that you don’t need to be rewarded that often to keep you playing.

But remember the principle that scarcity enhances value.

Scarce rewards make them more valuable.

So even though they might be scarce, once players get the reward – it will be enough to keep them playing until the next reward appears.

Put simply:

Newbies play because they want the next reward.

Experienced players play because they need the reward.

Why they need the reward could be due to a combination of things.

Examples include playing out of habit, prior investment into the game (sunk cost fallacy), a sense of mastery from playing, and of course addiction to the quest for new and better Pokèmon.

Competence and Mastery

Being competent in the world around you is a core psychological need and satisfying it improves your overall well-being.

The unpredictability and variability of being rewarded for your efforts with new Pokèmon, potions, Pokè balls or other goodies directly translates into this feeling of competence.

That is, you realise that you have what it takes to do well in the game.

When you hit level 5 in the game, you can fight in gyms and you might even see that you can actually beat the powerful Pokèmon that tend to be there.

By beating them, you achieve a strong feeling of competence in the process.

Curiosity and sense-making

Humans are meaning-making creatures. According to many psychologists such as behavioural economist George Loewenstein, sense-making is a fundamental human drive.

Here’s George:

“As noted by Gilovich (1991), “We are predisposed to see order, pattern, and meaning in the world, and we find randomness, chaos, and meaninglessness unsatisfying. Human nature abhors a lack of predictability and the absence of meaning.” (p.9)”

Exotic Preferences: Behavioural Economics and Human Motivation by George Loewenstein

When looking to make sense of something, we look for simplicity.

This is what we find in predictability.

In variability on the other hand – we find curiosity.

In Pokèmon Go, variability ranges from the Pokèmon we encounter and the items we find at Pokèstops to the different gym battles we can have with other trainers and the various potions we need to use to revive our fallen Pokèmon.

Even the schedules of reinforcement are variable to sustain curiosity.

Curiosity, the need to see what happens next, is an important feature in a game.

It is predictability’s arch-rival.

Inherently, curiosity is a mixture of uncertainty and excitement which directly translates into pleasure.

And a key human motivation is to seek pleasure. That’s why our brains are wired to keep chasing the next reward, never completely satisfied.

Hunting and Gathering 

There’s something primal about ‘hunting’ for Pokèmon and basking in the glory of what you’ve been able to bring back home.

Millenia ago, our predecessors would go hunting for food and after a long day of hunting they’d bring back whatever haul they had to enjoy at the dinner table.

Pokèmon Go is hunting and gathering of the 21st century.

The game really taps into our primitive parts of the brain and masterfully plays upon our natural instincts – ones our predecessors wouldn’t have been able to survive without.

Boredom

Pokèmon Go definitely cures boredom.

But what is boredom?

According to behavioural economist George Loewenstein, it is the misutilisation of cognitive resources.

Boring things usually require a small amount of attention, but require it nonetheless (so you can’t use the remaining ‘attentional’ resources on other things).

In Pokèmon Go, you’re totally engaged and locked in the game.

Novel and salient stimuli are constantly capturing our attention, skilfully managing to hold our undivided attention for extended periods of time.

As a result, Pokèmon Go doesn’t get boring quickly.

The Need for Connection 

According to the Self-Determination theory, interacting and being connected to other people is one of the three most basic human psychological needs.

One example of social connectedness is the purpose of so called “Lure Modules”:

“A module that attracts Pokèmon to a Pokèstop for 30 min. The effect benefits other people nearby.”

When I went out looking for Pokèmon, I saw people sitting at lures and waiting for Pokèmon to appear.

Because Pokèmon Go is designed in a way that you can’t do other things on your phone while waiting for new Pokèmon to approach you, just waiting around and sitting on a bench and doing nothing is annoying.

After all, humans have an aversion to idleness.

That is, we hate just sitting around and doing nothing.

It’s annoying, stressful, and can ruin your mood.

By sitting around, we open ourselves to mental frustration like “why aren’t there any Pokèmon here?!” or “It’s been a while since I got a Pokèmon, what’s going on?!”

A welcome byproduct of this natural aversion is that people sitting around the lure just start talking to each other.

This is a source of in-group social belonging where you talk about the game and maybe even get to know someone new. From the get go, you already have a lot in common.

The bar for starting a conversation is extremely low and it is simple to start one that is light-hearted and easy-going.

By playing Pokèmon Go, you are becoming part of a subculture with various social norms.

In a sense, people playing Pokèmon Go are a family.

If you’re looking for Pokèmon and see someone nearby characteristically walking around with their phone in their hand, you could argue that it is okay to have a small chat.

Especially when you see other Pokèmon trainers talking to trainers they’ve just met.

If walking up to trainers and talking to them and other norm-related behaviours are well-received, people like you and I will do them do, too – and they will become more automatic and habitual for us.

But let’s not forget that people go for a walk with a friend and look for Pokèmon together.

I’ve seen children on their skateboards or scooters with smartphones in hand, exchanging their personal little victories with one another, for example.

Or people strolling around in suits together on their lunch break.

This is how the game satisfies a basic human need – the need for connectedness.

Rationalisation

People even start building social gatherings around Pokèmon Go.

They go for long walks to the park together or just turn on a Lure Module at a local pub or bar and wait for the Pokèmon to come to them while they enjoy a cocktail or two by the river.

People rationalise playing Pokèmon Go as an opportunity to meet up and spend time with friends.

Pokèmon Go is such a habit forming product that it can easily weave itself into the fabric of our everyday lives (if we let it).

Another example of this is playing the game but rationalising it as exercise.

You bump into moms with their children who rationalise “as long as it gets them out of the house to get a bit of exercise it’s fine.”

Even I caught myself thinking “I’ll just go for a walk, because I like walking to x, and plus I like walking and it’s good for me, and its exercise and it’s…”

I’d rationalise going to the park for a peaceful stroll to enjoy nature and the fresh air. It just so happens that in parks there are usually more Pokèmon frolicking around.

I’d rationalise breaking into a job to obviously get somewhere quicker and definitely not to pile on the kilometres to hatch a Pokèmon egg and add a new Pokèmon to list…

Make no mistake, walking is an integral feature of the game but – at least in the eyes of the game’s developers – the exercise is a mere byproduct of what you are really doing and that’s giving away a lot of your data (which can be sold to third parties).

Augmented reality

There’s definitely something special and unique about being able to play a game in which you can find and recognise familiar locations from your life.

Pubs, bars, statues, monuments, signs, bell towers, historic points of interest, old playgrounds, parks, riverside walkways.

You can go to one of these familiar places and collect a lucky egg, a revive potion, or a bunch of pokèballs.

All of a sudden, there is another layer of exploration to something that is so familiar to you. The game shows you a different world, with different laws in your real world; the world you thought couldn’t get any different.

Anchoring of emotional and mood states

Due to simple old familiarity and habit, nearby places from your home are already imbued with some sort of emotional charge stemming from the sum of all the experiences you’ve had in that particular area.

The emotions associated with the familiar places are juxtaposed with the thrill of the chase and catch of old, old friends – the Pokèmon.

“I caught a Ghastly near the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, lol.”

You can relive a time that you thought was long gone as well as relive all the emotions associated with that time.

In a sense, Pokèmon Go fuses both old and new versions of your identity as well as combines a melange of different emotional associations.

Whenever and wherever you gather Pokèmon, you anchor these places to certain emotional and mood states.

The lines of reality are blurred and it’s no longer a game where you sit at home and play in front of your television or computer screen but where you go outside and actively engage in your own reality and in the shared reality with other people.

It’s intricately linked with a piece of your identity.

The Paradox of Choice

In his book “The Paradox of Choice“, Barry Schwartz distinguishes between two types of people: maximizers and satisficers.

Maximizers will search for only the best things in life whereas satisficers will settle for ‘good enough’ even though they might have also have high standards.

Satisficers will play the game until they’ve done a “good enough” job.

Maximizers will play until they’ve totally maxed out the area they were looking for Pokèmon in. That is, they will leave no stone unturned to make sure they’ve done their very best to capture every last Pokèmon.

And they will be very reluctant to leave that particular area before they do.

Consequently, if you enter a park in Pokèmon Go, the effect is that much greater.

In parks, you are met with so much choice when it comes to the Pokèmon you might encounter.

You get to choose which Pokèmon you want to catch and which you might want to avoid. I remember a fellow gamer tell me that Magikarp is s**t and that he “won’t be risking a crash by trying to catch it.”

But the point I’m trying to make is that there is an abundance and a huge variety of Pokèmon to be found in parks.

In his book, Barry talks about what a wide array of options can do to people:

“It is possible that a wide array of options can turn people into maximisers. If this is true, then the proliferation of options not only makes people who are maximisers miserable, but it may also make people who are satisficers into maximisers.”

So even the casual-satisficer gamer can easily get hooked on the game just because of the abundance and wide variety of Pokèmon to catch.

I remember my thought process when I went to a park – “wow there are so many Pokèmon here! There’s so much choice and variety – I’ve just got to come back!”

After all – gotta catch ’em all.

References:

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Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2011). Self-determination theory. Handbook of theories of social psychology, 1, 416-433.

Eyal, N. (2014). Hooked: How to build habit-forming products. Penguin Canada.

FORA.tv (2011, March 2). Dopamine Jackpot! Sapolsky on the Science of Pleasure. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axrywDP9Ii0&feature=relmfu

Hewstone, M., Stroebe, W., & Jonas, K. (2012). An introduction to social psychology (Vol. 17). John Wiley & Sons.

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