It turns out seeking “likes” on social media is pretty much the same thing as animals seeking out food.
Researchers from two universities found that people post on social media in a way that maximizes how many “likes” they receive on average: they post more frequently in response to a high rate of likes and less frequently when they get fewer likes. The researchers used a computational model to reveal that this pattern conforms closely to known mechanisms of reward learning, a long-established psychological concept that argues behavior may be driven and reinforced by rewards.
They add that non-human animals are driven by similar principles to maximize their food rewards in certain experiments. The study’s lead author adds, “Our findings can help lead to a better understanding of why social media dominates so many people’s daily lives and can also provide leads for ways of tackling excessive online behavior.”