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The internet and digital technologies have changed our world with a profound impact on information, communication, and society.

The good.

The bad.

Many changes have been positive. It’s now possible to access information on any subject from anywhere at any time. It’s never been easier to communicate with friends and family anywhere on the planet.

Constant connectivity has led many people to spend nearly all their free time in front of screens, which is evidently harming the lives and health of millions in the United States.

The rise of smartphones and social media has significantly impacted mental health, with many clinicians and psychologists linking their popularity to increased loneliness, anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, and suicide. We’re working with some of the world’s best psychologists and doctors to better understand, characterize, and correct the problems that screen use is posing to the mental health of millions of people around the world. To learn more about the problem, the solution, and our marketplace, click here.

The science.

DoCurious was founded in 2017 by Dr. Doug Perednia to address the negative impact of excessive screen use on mental health. In the five years since smartphones had reached market penetration, there was an undeniable correlation between screen and social media use, reduced in-person social interaction, and higher levels of loneliness and depression.

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Further studies revealed a causal link between screen time and mental health issues, particularly in college students with the introduction of Facebook. Excessive screen time, especially on social media, was associated with increased depression. The rise in screen time, particularly among American teens, has become a concern.

The negative impact on mental health is rooted in unmet psychological needs, including autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Excessive screen use compromises these needs, as it is often controlled by algorithms, lacks meaningful skills, and offers shallow connections.

To address this, a strategy was developed to balance screen time with real-world goal-oriented challenges (GOCs) that fulfill these needs and create a sense of flow, competence, and accomplishment. DoCurious is partnering with businesses to offer various GOCs, promoting a healthier balance between screen time and real-world engagement.

The Self-Determination Theory.

Self-Determination Theory (SDT) was originally described by Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci at the University of Rochester. SDT describes the major psychological differences between extrinsic motivation (doing things because someone asked or told you to) and intrinsic motivation (doing things yourself for your own reasons). Research into self-determination theory has shown that people require three key elements to thrive personally, socially, and psychologically:

Autonomy…

concerns a sense of initiative and ownership in one’s actions. It is supported by experiences of interest and value and undermined by experiences of being externally controlled, whether by rewards or punishments.

Competence…

concerns the feeling of mastery, a sense that one can succeed and grow. The need for competence is best satisfied within well-structured environments that afford optimal challenges, positive feedback, and opportunities for growth.

Relatedness…

concerns a sense of belonging and connection. It is facilitated by conveyance of respect and caring.

Flow & GOC.

Girl welding
Boy scuba diving
Young adults yatching

The phenomenon called “flow” was pioneered by the Hungarian American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow describes a creative and pleasurable state of mind that occurs when a person engages in a goal-oriented challenge (GOC) that is neither too easy nor too difficult for their skills and abilities.

By their very nature, GOCs are rewarding to engage in and conquering them provides a sense of personal achievement. When experienced with others, social bonds between participants are created.

GOCs are one of the most successful entertainment activities on earth. Every successful video game consists of a series of increasingly difficult GOCs. The psychology behind flow has made video games a $347 billion industry with over 3 billion players.

We rely heavily on both self-determination theory and the science of goal-oriented challenges to structure our products and services. Our real-life challenge marketplace is specifically designed to use GOCs as a way of engaging people in activities that add to their autonomy, knowledge, skills, competence, relatedness, and sense of personal achievement.

Ken-Sheldon
Doug-Perednia

The whitepaper. 

In 2021 Drs. Ken Sheldon, Ph.D. and Douglas Perednia, M.D., wrote a white paper entitled “The Science Behind Moving People Away from Screens and Toward Happier, More Fulfilling Lives.” It describes some of the science behind screen-associated dysphoria and how it can be corrected based upon what we know of Self-Determination Theory and Positive Psychology.