Work around your brain’s natural impulse.
If the public service announcements and dirty looks from fellow commuters haven’t caused you to change your behavior on the road, there’s a reason. Recent research shows that seeking out and accessing information triggers a release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, providing an addictive high. So even at the most inopportune times, the familiar ding of an incoming text is difficult to ignore.
As it turns out, the same brain signals that brought Pavlov’s dogs running for dinner give us an intense urge to find out which hotel our buddy from college will be staying at when he’s in town next month. The greater our anticipation for an imminent reply, the greater our compulsions, as dopamine is created in various parts of the brain and overpowers the opioid system, which governs satisfaction.
We can’t change our nature, but technology certainly enables us to be more prudent while behind the wheel. Try downloading an app to curb your urge to text and drive, such as AT&T’s DriveMode, which automatically sends a customizable message, letting the sender know you can’t respond, similar to an out-of-office email.
Use “airplane mode” (offline use only; no calling/no online access) when you need a quiet moment to work.