Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Can't quit smoking? It might be to do with how sad you are
Smoking is not just habit-based but is deeply entwined with emotions.
Emotions have a powerful part to play in both our behavioural choices and our health.
Experiencing a range of positive emotions has been associated with lower levels of inflammation, for example, and emotional control has even been linked to higher performance in sportspeople. Negative emotions, too, can have a serious impact on behaviour: research has investigated the emotional triggers of self-harm, for instance.
Now new research from Charles Dorison and colleagues at Harvard University, published in PNAS, has looked at the role of negative emotions in addiction. Though some theories say negative mood in general is associated with problematic substance use, the study suggests that, for tobacco at least, it's sadness per se that is related to addiction.
For their first study, the team looked at data from a national survey that tracked 10,685 people over 20 years. It found that sadness significantly predicted smoking status — something that no other emotion, positive or negative, did. There seemed to be a long-term effect, too: sadness reported at the first phase of the data predicted smoking ten and twenty years later.
In the second study, which looked at cravings for cigarettes, 425 smokers were placed into three conditions: sadness, disgust and neutral. Those in the sadness condition were shown a clip from the notoriously tear-jerking Pixar film Up, and were then asked to write about a time they themselves had experienced significant loss, like the elderly man in the film.
Participants in the disgust condition were shown another iconic film clip: the scene from Trainspotting in which Ewan McGregor roots around in a decidedly unclean toilet. They were then asked to write about an unsanitary experience in their own life. And in the neutral condition, participants viewed a video about furniture making and were asked to write about their work.
Before and after watching the clips, participants were asked three questions about how much they were craving cigarettes — and, once again, sadness was related to tobacco use. Sadness increased craving compared to both the neutral and disgusted states, the latter of which appeared to decrease cravings (perhaps rather unsurprisingly, although the effect wasn't statistically significant).
A third study again looked at cravings, asking 760 participants to watch either neutral or sad videos, and then indicate whether they'd prefer to have a few puffs of a cigarette immediately, or wait to have more puffs after a small delay. Those in the sadness condition were far more impatient, craving fewer puffs sooner than those in the neutral condition.
And in a final study, 158 smokers were asked to abstain from smoking for at least eight hours, with their breath verified through a carbon monoxide test. Participants were again asked to watch either a sad or neutral video. They then smoked a cigarette through a device that measures volume, speed and duration of puffs. Mirroring previous results, smokers in the sadness condition were both more impatient and smoked more per puff.
Though the findings certainly do present a strong argument for an emotion-specific model for smoking cessation, there were things left unaddressed. Only one of the experimental studies looked at other negative emotions (i.e. disgust, induced by watching the Trainspotting clip). Concluding that sadness is more potent than other negative emotional states may be too strong a statement — we have no idea how anxiety, fear or anger, for example, could trigger tobacco use.
It may also be worth conducting further research on the link between negative emotions and other addictive substances: the relationship between sadness and heroin use, for example, may be entirely different.
But encouraging people to give up smoking is not an insignificant health intervention: in both the US and the UK, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death, and one billion more premature deaths worldwide are expected to occur because of smoking by the end of the century. Understanding that, for many, smoking is not just habit-based but is deeply entwined with emotions may be a good way to develop anti-smoking programmes that work for everyone.
- The Big Five Personality Traits and What They Mean to Psychologists ›
- Lonely people may lose the reflex to mimic other people's smiles ... ›
These alien-like creatures are virtually invisible in the deep sea.
- A team of marine biologists used nets to catch 16 species of deep-sea fish that have evolved the ability to be virtually invisible to prey and predators.
- "Ultra-black" skin seems to be an evolutionary adaptation that helps fish camouflage themselves in the deep sea, which is illuminated by bioluminescent organisms.
- There are likely more, and potentially much darker, ultra-black fish lurking deep in the ocean.
The Pacific blackdragon
Credit: Karen Osborn/Smithsonian<p>When researchers first saw the deep-sea species, it wasn't immediately obvious that their skin was ultra-black. Then, marine biologist Karen Osborn, a co-author on the new paper, noticed something strange about the photos she took of the fish.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I had tried to take pictures of deep-sea fish before and got nothing but these really horrible pictures, where you can't see any detail," Osborn told <em><a href="https://www.wired.com/story/meet-the-ultra-black-vantafish/" target="_blank">Wired</a></em>. "How is it that I can shine two strobe lights at them and all that light just disappears?"</p><p>After examining samples of fish skin under the microscope, the researchers discovered that the fish skin contains a layer of organelles called melanosomes, which contain melanin, the same pigment that gives color to human skin and hair. This layer of melanosomes absorbs most of the light that hits them.</p>
A crested bigscale
Credit: Karen Osborn/Smithsonian<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"But what isn't absorbed side-scatters into the layer, and it's absorbed by the neighboring pigments that are all packed right up close to it," Osborn told <em>Wired</em>. "And so what they've done is create this super-efficient, very-little-material system where they can basically build a light trap with just the pigment particles and nothing else."</p><p>The result? Strange and terrifying deep-sea species, like the crested bigscale, fangtooth, and Pacific blackdragon, all of which appear in the deep sea as barely more than faint silhouettes.</p>
David Csepp, NMFS/AKFSC/ABL<p>But interestingly, this unique disappearing trick wasn't passed on to these species by a common ancestor. Rather, they each developed it independently. As such, the different species use their ultra-blackness for different purposes. For example, the threadfin dragonfish only has ultra-black skin during its adolescent years, when it's rather defenseless, as <em>Wired</em> <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/meet-the-ultra-black-vantafish/" target="_blank">notes</a>.</p><p>Other fish—like the <a href="http://onebugaday.blogspot.com/2016/06/a-new-anglerfish-oneirodes-amaokai.html" target="_blank">oneirodes species</a>, which use bioluminescent lures to bait prey—probably evolved ultra-black skin to avoid reflecting the light their own bodies produce. Meanwhile, species like <em>C. acclinidens</em> only have ultra-black skin around their gut, possibly to hide light of bioluminescent fish they've eaten.</p><p>Given that these newly described species are just ones that this team found off the coast of California, there are likely many more, and possibly much darker, ultra-black fish swimming in the deep ocean. </p>
Using machine-learning technology, the genealogy company My Heritage enables users to animate static images of their relatives.
- Deep Nostalgia uses machine learning to animate static images.
- The AI can animate images by "looking" at a single facial image, and the animations include movements such as blinking, smiling and head tilting.
- As deepfake technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, some are concerned about how bad actors might abuse the technology to manipulate the pubic.
My Heritage/Deep Nostalgia<p>But that's not to say the animations are perfect. As with most deep-fake technology, there's still an uncanny air to the images, with some of the facial movements appearing slightly unnatural. What's more, Deep Nostalgia is only able to create deepfakes of one person's face from the neck up, so you couldn't use it to animate group photos, or photos of people doing any sort of physical activity.</p>
My Heritage/Deep Nostalgia<p>But for a free deep-fake service, Deep Nostalgia is pretty impressive, especially considering you can use it to create deepfakes of <em>any </em>face, human or not. </p>
How long should one wait until an idea like string theory, seductive as it may be, is deemed unrealistic?
- How far should we defend an idea in the face of contrarian evidence?
- Who decides when it's time to abandon an idea and deem it wrong?
- Science carries within it its seeds from ancient Greece, including certain prejudices of how reality should or shouldn't be.
Plato used the allegory of the cave to explain that what humans see and experience is not the true reality.
Credit: Gothika via Wikimedia Commons CC 4.0<p>When scientists and mathematicians use the term <em>Platonic worldview</em>, that's what they mean in general: The unbound capacity of reason to unlock the secrets of creation, one by one. Einstein, for one, was a believer, preaching the fundamental reasonableness of nature; no weird unexplainable stuff, like a god that plays dice—his tongue-in-cheek critique of the belief that the unpredictability of the quantum world was truly fundamental to nature and not just a shortcoming of our current understanding. Despite his strong belief in such underlying order, Einstein recognized the imperfection of human knowledge: "What I see of Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility." (Quoted by Dukas and Hoffmann in <em>Albert Einstein, The Human Side: Glimpses from His Archives</em> (1979), 39.)</p> <p>Einstein embodies the tension between these two clashing worldviews, a tension that is still very much with us today: On the one hand, the Platonic ideology that the fundamental stuff of reality is logical and understandable to the human mind, and, on the other, the acknowledgment that our reasoning has limitations, that our tools have limitations and thus that to reach some sort of final or complete understanding of the material world is nothing but an impossible, <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01K2JTGIA?tag=bigthink00-20&linkCode=ogi&th=1&psc=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">semi-religious dream</a>.</p>