René Spitz is known for his research on deprivation experienced by infants.
What he found, was that infants suffering from emotional and maternal deprivation are prone to eventually succumb to intercurrent disease. With emotional deprivation potentially leading to a fatal outcome it becomes clear, that the need for emotional stimulus is also a survival mechanism.
Similar observations have been made with adults subject to sensory deprivation, experiments showing how it can lead to mental disturbances. Isolation, for example, is the most dreaded punishment in prison. In other contexts, isolation has been used to establish political compliance. The lack of external stimulus making it hard to survive these conditions.
People know this and often dread to change difficult situations in which they are as they feel that whatever contact they have is better than none.
Building on Spitz’s research, Eric Berne incorporated the idea of the “stimulus hunger” into Transactional Analysis.
He also postulated that it is possible to compare food hunger and stimulus hunger. Both have the same relationship to survival of the human organism. The inability to deal with nutrition leads to all kinds of problems, the worst being the lack of food and thus starvation. Lack of stimulation of the reticular activating system of the brain stem, on the other hand, can lead to degenerative changes to nerve cells. While the problems might not be a direct consequence, they can be linked.
If you now start to think about terms like malnutrition, satiation, gourmet, gourmand, faddist, ascetic, culinary arts or good cooking you’ll see that there are many ways to deal with food. Some of which might be healthy, others might be an art and yet others might be feeling nice in the moment and still lead to feeling bad on the long term.
The same is valid for all the stimuli we are experiencing on a daily basis.
What’s important here is, that the amount of stimulus people are experiencing is growing at a fast speed.
Maybe faster than we are able to deal with.
The first step is to realize how much of the daily overwhelm is due to an overwhelm of stimuli.
Smartphones are only the tip of the iceberg.