I'm doing some research right now for a book project on Big Tech, and one of Big Tech's keys to success is that it harnesses the principle of Variable Reward. Variable Reward is a very powerful trigger to the nucleus accumbens, the part of the brain that responds not to neurochemical reward itself, but to anticipation of reward. And making the reward variable--you only receive it some of the time--makes it exponentially more powerful in habit formation. This is called the Gambler's Hook. Slot machines keep people trapped for hours and days based on the brain's faulty evaluation of the odds--next time, I'll get a hit! I've been here so long, I have to be close to hitting the jackpot! (Sunk Cost Fallacy and Optimism Bias). Big Tech harnesses this to keep us on social media or using apps/YouTube, etc. Some content is stimulating, some isn't. Some posts we make get likes, some don't. Variable Reward. We keep chasing it, like the rats in the cage of the original neurochemical reward lab experiments.
How does this relate to abusive relationships? Abusive relationships function according to Variable Reward. He only hits you sometimes. Sometimes he's loving. He only berates your appearance sometimes. Sometimes he tells you you're beautiful. You're stuck pulling the lever on that slot machine, your brain chemistry combining Variable Reward with Sunk Cost Fallacy plus the abused woman's self-pressure to find a way to please him so he won't hurt you and the low self-esteem of thinking you're not worth better. You're trapped, not just by society but by your own hardwired brain chemistry. You've heard it takes seven attempts to leave an abusive partner? This is part of why. Your non-rational, primitive brain wiring is pushing you to keep chasing the reward of affection/approval/non-violent response. You keep engaging and keep modifying your own behavior, convinced if you change yourself enough, you'll unlock the code hit the jackpot of love and safety. Pro-tip: you won't, and you've got to go cold turkey from his presence to start to let those neural networks cool down and quit activating.
In less high-stakes scenarios, this is why Block and Delete works. His inconsistent texting habits? Some shabby and some excellent dates? Started out with paying attention to your sexual pleasure but over time starts sprinkling in more demeaning sexual demands? Variable Reward. You have to remove the stimulus if you want to control your response. Block and delete. Get out of the rat cage. Walk away from the slot machine.