So, a couple of PhD students at MIT—finding themselves too addicted to do their actual research—developed a system that tracks your online activity and zaps you with a painful shock if it sees you’re spending too much time on Facebook.
They’re calling it the Pavlov Poke, after 19th century Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov, famous for discovering classical conditioning—the concept of using positive or negative stimuli to encourage a behavior change. We employ the psychological trick all the time: Finish homework, get cookie, the homework gets done. Cat jumps on counter, gets sprayed with water bottle, it no longer jumps on counter. The Pavlov Poke works like an electric fence: youre the dog and Facebook is the neighbors yard.
“To be truly effective, many shock exposures are probably needed. Proper conditioning procedures should be followed,” wrote Robert Morris, one of the students, for an article on Medium. However after electrocuting themselves several times in the name of science, the pair decided the shocks were a bit too unpleasant, and decided to try a different approach: peer ridicule.They enlisted Amazons Mechanical Turk and paid strangers $1.40 to call them up and yell at them for wasting too much time Facebooking. The callers read from pre-written scripts: “Hey, stop using Facebook! What the hell is wrong with you? You lazy piece of garbage. Youre a dumb freaking idiot, you know that? Get it together!”