Social Media Use Driven By Search For Reward

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.”