It turns out that humans aren’t the only mammals addicted to taking selfies.
A French artist spent two months training rats to press a small shutter button on a camera aimed directly at them in a photo booth-like machine; He discovered that the rodents pressed it a few hundred times.
The experiment was inspired by famous psychologist Dr. Burrhus Frederic Skinner, who used positive reinforcement to teach rats to press a lever inside a “Skinner box” – and Agustín Lignier replied the study, but with selfies.
“I was trying to understand how experiments from the 1950s could influence behavior just like we have social media and smartphones,” Lingnier told DailyMail.com.
Inspired by Skinner’s box, Lignier built a tower-shaped structure with a camera on top and a mechanism that released a small dose of sugar each time the rat pressed the shutter.
“At a certain point, the rats stopped taking sugar,” said the artist, while explaining that the animals realized that they got the same dopamine just by pressing the button and simply took funny pictures.
A French artist spent two months training rats to press a small shutter button on a camera that looked directly at them in a photo booth-like machine.
This rat pushed him hundreds of times: the greatest benefit of the two rodents.
The revised Skinner Box included a camera, a flashlight, a computer hard drive, and a sugar dispensary attached to a wheel, along with food and water.
Construction of the transparent box took approximately two months, which also included testing and adjusting the structure.
Lignier said the rats also damaged the structure during training and he had to make several repairs.
He then got to work teaching the rats to take selfies by pressing the little button; training was done for a few hours a day.
The rats were then taken out of the box for about a week and then put back inside to do the process again.
Initially, the artist had a screen in front of him to show the animals his images, but he removed it when they did not respond to the images.
“They didn’t react because they didn’t pass the mirror tests,” Lignier.
He observed that the rats pressed the button every half minute as the experiment progressed.
Augustin Lignier used the Skinner box, developed by a famous psychologist to evaluate animal behavior. The revised Skinner Box included a camera, a flashlight, a computer hard drive, and a sugar dispensary attached to a wheel, along with food and water.
Lignier built a tower-shaped structure with a camera at the top and a mechanism that released a small dose of sugar each time the rat pressed the shutter.
“At one point the rats stopped taking the sugar,” said the artist, while explaining that the animals realized that they got the same dopamine just by pressing the button.
However, Lignier also discovered that the multicolored rat pressed the button more than the white one, even after it had stopped drinking sugar.
Skinner, a renowned American psychologist and behaviorist, conducted several experiments with rats throughout his career, focusing particularly on operant conditioning.
His famous Skinner box, created in the 1930s, allowed him to study animals in controlled environments.
About 20 years after the structure was built, Skinner placed rats inside a chamber equipped with a lever and a food dispenser.
The lever, when pressed by the rat, released a pellet of food. Skinner observed how rats learned to associate lever pressing with obtaining food, which led to an increase in lever pressing behavior.
Things like slot machines used parts of the experiment to keep people playing and spending money, and the same goes for social media companies to keep users browsing, liking and commenting.
Selfie Rats deploys a three-stage experiment with a group of rodents. Trained with a sugar delivery system connected to a camera, a group of rats produce images of themselves interacting with the camera.
At first driven by the trained compulsion to eat sugar, in the end they simply jokingly take pictures.
Lignier said he was trying to understand how experiments from the 1950s could influence behavior the way we have social media and smartphones.
Social media addiction has become prevalent in our society, and is recognized by the National Addiction Center as a similar behavioral addiction.
Psychologists estimate that between five and 10 percent of Americans suffer from a social media addiction that can be compared to any other substance abuse disorder.
“Studies have shown that the constant flow of retweets, likes and shares on these sites causes the reward area of the brain to trigger the same type of chemical reaction seen with drugs like cocaine,” the Addiction Center said. .
“In fact, neuroscientists have compared social media interaction to a syringe of dopamine injected directly into the system.”
Lignier compared the results to the way humans are connected to their phones in the digital age.
The difference is that social media platforms use likes and comments to trigger the same response that the rat had when it received a dose of sugar, and that keeps people coming back for more.
Likewise, sugar has been linked to dopamine and several studies claim that it is as addictive as drugs like cocaine and heroin, according to the Wellness Retreat Recovery Center, making it the ideal substance to trigger the same reaction to selfies. of the rats.
The artist said that humans are made to press a button and his experiment showed that rats have the same shape.
The rats spent a few hours a day in the box, then were taken out for a week and put back in, repeating the process.
Skinner’s box proved that the triggered dopamine response is what keeps us coming back to our social media for more, it’s what compels us to share a photo of the dinner we made or the concert we attended.
“Social media is designed to hook our brains, and teens are especially susceptible to its addictive nature,” said Nancy DeAngelis, CRNP, director of behavioral health at Jefferson Health – Abington in a Jefferson Health article.
“Excessive social media use can actually rewire a young child or teenager’s brain to constantly seek immediate gratification, leading to obsessive, compulsive, and addictive behaviors.”