The evolutionary causes of the Internet's inescapable charisma
So here you are, once again, on the Internet. (Hello, there. Welcome back, friend.) Here you are, another Norm within the Cheers that is the World Wide Web, hanging out in the place where everybody (or, more likely, nobody) knows your name.
But why are you really here? I mean, why are you really here? Why, ultimately, do you -- and, because I'm right here with you, we -- keep coming back to this crazy place, day after day?
It's easy to attribute the web's ongoing magnetism to the powerful combination that is "human connection" and "cat videos"; that isn't the full story, though. The Internet is beguiling not just because of its content, but because of its structure.
That's according to Tom Stafford, a cognitive scientist at the University of Sheffield in the U.K. The Internet, Sheffield told told LiveScience, offers the same kind of incentives and rewards that, say, slot machines do: You could pull several -- even several hundred -- rounds of duds (cherry-bar-7! bell-bell-lemon! unfunny "humor" piece! terrible listicle! bell-bell-lemon!). But when you get that one payoff -- when you hit even the smallest of jackpots -- your patience is rewarded. The monotony of the arm-pulls or the button-presses seems to be justified by the win. You get a rush of dopamine. You are happy. (For more on how this works, check out the excellent "No Armed Bandit" episode of Roman Mars's 99 Percent Invisible podcast.)