“Dopamine”, on Arte.tv: our smartphone apps, these irresistible traps for our brains

The documentary “Dopamine.  How apps trick our brains” (2023), directed by Léo Favier.


Three billion people now own a smartphone, democratized from 2007; and spend more and more time there. Why do we open it 221 times a day (according to a study conducted before confinement with 2,000 users)? Why are message notifications so irresistible? How can you end up spending eight hours straight on Instagram or TikTok? Do you also ask yourself these questions and it’s not for a friend?

Welcome in Dopaminea pop web series by Arte, and now a documentary, the 52-minute film, Dopamine. How Apps Trick Our Brains, broadcast on Arte.tv on May 27. It extends the experience of the web series, of which seven new episodes are released on May 31.

This season, we will discover how the designers of WhatsApp, Amazon, LinkedIn, TikTok, Vinted, Waze or Twitch think about applications so that they secrete the neurotransmitter of pleasure. With a red thread: you work for them as much, perhaps even more, than they work for you. Thus, you will understand how Amazon turns you into a compulsive buyer or what “motivates” you so much to complete your profile on LinkedIn.

The human cognitive biases that are commercially exploited are identified, named, deciphered… We feel less weak, less airheaded and we stop looking for ADHD (attention deficit disorder) than anyone, surprisingly (? ), had been unable to diagnose until now. And we laugh at our gregarious behavior.

Attention Multinationals

The success of this web series of public utility and the documentary that complements it is based on careful production and a lively parodic spirit. “We have set ourselves the rule of not shooting anything”, explains the author Léo Favier. All the images you see are therefore “pretext” images, retrieved from databases, as the press uses them. “We worked on the Koulechov effect : the narration suggests and we add images, either that stick to the primary meaning, or by working on a shift”explains Arnaud Viémont, co-director and editor of the web series.

A delicious dialogue, meticulously paced, is built between diverted images and the text, rich in lessons in neuroscience, funny and rigorously interpreted by the dashing voice actress (and philosopher) Elisabeth Ventura. The two authors have fun and it is communicative.

But how do we regain control of our lives, in the face of these multinationals of attention? These practices of optimized neurocognitive manipulation form a flourishing economic model, to the detriment of our mental health and fair working conditions. Some clever answers emerge in the film, without eclipsing the political question.

Dopamineseason 2, documentary web series by Léo Favier and Arnaud Viémont (Fr., 2023, 7 × 7 min); Dopamine. How Apps Trick Our Brains, documentary by Léo Favier and Cécile Dumas (Fr., 2023, 52 min). Available on Arte.tv on May 27 and 31.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers TikTok: “The lack of regulation is the door open to the destruction of the attention of the little ones”

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