In-App Notifications: How apps keep your attention long after you’ve closed them (And a bit on why they’re so addictive in the first place)

So many game-style apps have been trending for smartphone users: Angry Birds, Candy Crush, Flappy Bird, and Temple Run are some of the big ones. But why are they so addictive? The likeable quality of these apps comes from their simplicity.

“Why is simplicity addictive? Because your brain equates simplicity with ease. That means you know you should be able to beat the game.” says Dave Parrack, a U.K-based technology journalist.

Parrack also explains that as humans, we are commonly always working towards a conclusion. Apps that show obvious progress are addicting because when we play them, we can see ourselves coming to a sort of conclusion or reaching a goal. In gaming apps, this goal is usually to win. On Tinder, this goal might be to find your soul mate. All the swiping you do in the app puts you closer to reaching the conclusion, meeting your perfect match.

Tinder also offers instant rewards, a key in its addictive quality. On Tinder, once you “like” someone, you are able to see if that person also liked you. It offers a way to know for certain that someone is interested in you.

Once you do stray away from your mobile device though, a unique feature of apps is their ability to literally call you back. App notifications appear on the home-screen of mobile devices, usually accompanied by an alert sound (a tweet, a whistle, a dog bark), and usually offer the user something that will make them want to return to the app.

For example, Tinder users may experience the notification from Tinder saying “You’ve got _(number) of matches waiting for you!” and this notification can be repeated daily.

References:

Dickson, E.J. “Why is Tinder So Addictive? Here, Let Science Tell You.” *The Daily Dot.* 08 Jul. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2015

Smith, Dana. “This is What Candy Crush Saga Does to Your Brain.” *The Guardian.* 01. April. 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2015