Ellen Leanse is serious about getting people to reconsider their use of technology.
We're at a table together at a San Francisco restaurant when she sees me quickly scan a message alert on my phone.
"Did you know it's now going to take you at least six minutes to fully re-focus on this conversation?" she asks.
"That's how long seeing a phone light-up disrupts our thought processes, between six and 23 minutes," she says, staring first at me, then my phone.
My explanation — that a reporter has to be available to answer questions when an editor is working on one of their stories — fails to elicit any sympathy. I turn the device over to hide the screen and get back to our interview.
It doesn't pay to argue about technology use with Leanse, who in rapid succession can cite a half-dozen academic studies to support her belief that hardware and software are impacting consumers in ways that experts are just starting to understand.
"The human brain is built to scan for things that improve our chances for survival, things like warnings of threats or opportunities" for food, shelter or a chance to mate, she explains.
Most of us don't consider that our motivations for doing so have little to do with our ancient survival instincts. Instead, according to Leanse, the use of social media is more about increasing our sense of belonging or affirming a positive self-image.
Therein lies a potential danger — that we humans will begin to focus on a narrower set of experiences, ones that provide us with emotional rewards but make us less creative and less adaptable, Leanse says.
"What we don't know (about the motivations behind our actions) shapes our perceptions as much as what we do," she says.
Designers should be asking about their products: "Does it activate the same neuro processes as other addictive experiences?"