People are being hooked on smartphone apps that can change our personalities and perform "mind control", experts have told the Daily Star.
Therapists warned "harmless" looking apps could be used to "subtly" shape our world views and pose a bigger threat than fake news on social media.
Mark Vahrmeyer said the risk was "huge" as we become increasingly dependent on our phones which many already see as an "extension of ourselves".
The co-founder of Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy said: "Getting better sleep or more exercise may seem harmless if that is what an app is doing for us.
"But it may be that we increasingly hand over control of what we do and what we actually want to apps making us feel more disconnected from ourselves and more and more dependent on this robotic parent.
"And unlike a real parent, apps do not intrinsically have our best interests at heart – this is where the risk of conflicting interests comes into the picture and possibly the risk of some degree of mind control."
His comments come after a three-month study on 1,523 adults found our phones can change our "personality traits".
Mr Vahrmeyer explained an app designed to help users develop better sleeping habits could suggest not watching the news before going to bed.
But such apps could also track what we watch on our phones and use the data to suggest "newsworthy" items for the user at certain times.
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He added: "So, with all this in mind it does not seem to me to be a great leap to imagine a situation where a large corporation would use an app to create dependency on the part of the app users – sleep habits, exercise routine, behaviour traits – and then to exploit this for further financial gains.
"Indeed, this is how many marketing models work. But now consider a situation where an app has the backing of a certain political movement or even a foreign government, with enough update and user dependency, the app creators have enormous power to subtly start to influence (and control) the behaviour of the app users, which if large enough, can have a detrimental effect on society.
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"Suddenly our world view is being shaped and also fed by said app. If you think this is unlikely you simply need to consider how some of the mainstream social media platforms operate by reinforcing what they see us consume in content and providing us with more and more of the same.
"Unlike social media platforms, apps and the way we are increasingly using them are more dangerous as they can often be intrinsically embedded in our lives and thus become an extension of ourselves – a sort of executive function outsourced. And if that outsourcing is done to a malignant force then the risks could be huge."
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Another expert Kirstan Murphy Adams, who works at Psychotherapy Richmond, added: "Apps which are used to control other people's minds are on the rise and they do manage to change a person's perception on something or change a characteristic in their personality especially if this is done on a daily basis."
The study's corresponding author Mirjam Stieger, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachussetts, US, declined to comment.
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