Stanford Psychologist: Technology Is Ruining a Generation of Men

Philip Zimbardo, who became a household name after conducting the Stanford prison experiments, argues that our online culture is disproportionately harming boys.

Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo, who became a household name after conducting the Stanford prison experiments, argues that our online culture is disproportionately harming boys, who watch more pornography, waste more time playing video games, and are increasingly bored with their sedentary office jobs. 


The cause, Zimbardo explains in his new book "Man (Dis)connected: How Technology has Sabotaged What it Means to Be Male," is biological in nature. Men have what psychologists call "single-cue arousability," meaning one mere stimulus brings them closer to happiness, such as a naked person on a screen, when compared to women who require more complex stimuli to become aroused.

"Give a man the image of a pair of attractive breasts or a curvy backside and they are half-way to happiness, where women need multiple cues: They are aroused by men who are 'attractive and nice to children and self-confident.'"

We've long wondered if the Internet is like the crack cocaine of entertainment, but talking about online addiction as a substance-abuse problem is a misleading metaphor, says Zimbardo. The Internet is not a drug because drug addiction supplies its users with more of the same experience. Arousal addiction, which the Internet does provide for, requires the addict to always receive new stimulation.

And again, that's something boys are apparently more vulnerable to than girls.

Zimbardo wanders into controversial territory when he argues that the loss of male exclusivity in the role of breadwinner is damaging to male psychology. To be sure, equal opportunity is a good thing for society, and women should work on an equal standing with men if they wish to, "but [no longer being the sole breadwinner] has not, from men’s point of view, been replaced by anything equally motivating and centering."

On the other hand, masculinity was partly to blame for the obscure financial instruments that caused the 2007 financial crash that continues to retard economic growth — a byproduct of how men tend to experience status and ambition, explains Lionel Tiger.

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