Big Thinkers on Mental Health

Sponsored by the Mental Health Channel


You’re Wired for Anxiety. And You’re Wired to Handle It.

Big Think and the Mental Health Channel are proud to launch Big Thinkers on Mental Health, a new series dedicated to open discussion of anxiety, depression, and the many other psychological disorders that affect millions worldwide.


In our first video in the series, Dr. Anne Marie Albano, director of Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders, traces the biological and evolutionary origins of anxiety, the unique features of anxiety in the 21st century, and the powerful research and tech-driven treatments that have emerged in recent decades.

You've Heard of OCD, but Do You Really Understand It?

Big Think and the Mental Health Channel are proud to launch Big Thinkers on Mental Health, a new series dedicated to open discussion of anxiety, depression, and the many other psychological disorders that affect millions worldwide.


In the second video in the series, Dr. Helen Blair Simpson, director of the Center for Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders at Columbia University, paints a vivid portrait of the many different versions of OCD. Even though it's a well-known anxiety disorder, OCD is also one of the most misunderstood, so it's important to educate ourselves on what our peers who suffer from it are going through. Dr. Simpson runs through variations of OCD, offers some extreme examples from her patients, and details what we've learned from brain scans of OCD sufferers.

The Suicide Rate is Going Up. Here’s What We Can Do to Stop It.

Big Think and the Mental Health Channel are proud to launch Big Thinkers on Mental Health, a new series dedicated to open discussion of anxiety, depression, and the many other psychological disorders that affect millions worldwide.


In the third video in the series, Dr. Christine Moutier of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention suggests several of the ways society can combat the rising suicide trend. Did you know white, middle-aged men are most at risk? What would it be like if mentally ill people got the treatment they needed before taking their lives? How would things be different if our opinions on suicidal tendencies changed overnight?

The Kids Are Not All Right: College Mental Health Needs an Intervention

Big Think and the Mental Health Channel are proud to launch Big Thinkers on Mental Health, a new series dedicated to open discussion of anxiety, depression, and the many other psychological disorders that affect millions worldwide.


In the fourth video in the series, Dr. Victor Schwartz of The Jed Foundation runs through some staggering stats about mental health in college. University students are, in general, a very stressed-out demographic. Factor in things like alcohol abuse, homesickness, and elevated risk for sexual assault, and you've got quite the cocktail for mental health issues. Does the typical college student, asks Schwartz, really understand the sort of care options available to her? One of the major challenges of college mental health care is encouraging students to step forward when they are depressed or suffering from anxiety. It's in everyone's best interest for mental health to be a big priority. The trick is to remove the stigma from the process.

When It Comes to Eating Disorders, "You Have the Bullet, The Culture Shoots the Gun"

Big Think and the Mental Health Channel are proud to launch Big Thinkers on Mental Health, a new series dedicated to open discussion of anxiety, depression, and the many other psychological disorders that affect millions worldwide.


There aren't many people on this planet who know more about eating disorders than psychologist Dr. Judith Brisman, founder of the Eating Disorder Resource Center. In this video, she offers a crash course in understanding the difference between someone who eats disorderly and someone with an eating disorder. We also learn that, deep down, people with anorexia use eating (or not eating) as a coping mechanism.

Finally, Brisman runs through some typical traits of those with anorexia: perfectionism, genetic disposition, and susceptibility to the pressures of society. Most of all, anorexia offers the illusion of control. When you're unable to control other parts of your life, losing weight by not eating seems like a major accomplishment because it was a (dangerous) decision made of your own volition.

It’s a Small, Small World: PTSD as Self-Imprisonment.

Big Think and the Mental Health Channel are proud to launch Big Thinkers on Mental Health, a new series dedicated to open discussion of anxiety, depression, and the many other psychological disorders that affect millions worldwide.


Dr. Rachel Yehuda is one of the foremost researchers in the country studying neurobiology with regard to PTSD. In this video interview, Dr. Yehuda relays common symptoms and struggles associated with the debilitating disorder. Where does one's brain go when traumatic flashbacks emerge? How do you fight these uncomfortable situations? Dr. Yehuda delves into these and other questions.

Black Mental Health Isn't the Same as White Mental Health

Big Think and the Mental Health Channel are proud to present Big Thinkers on Mental Health, a new series dedicated to open discussion of anxiety, depression, and the many other psychological disorders that affect millions worldwide.


You can't have a frank discussion about mental health within the African-American community without confronting issues related to social trauma. Uncomfortable (and sometimes dangerous) encounters with a distrusted police force. Drugs and crime infesting a neighborhood. The institutional scars of slavery and segregation. These are all issues our contemporary black population must deal with each and every day.

Dr. Michael Lindsey of NYU's Silver School of Social Work sees signs of debilitating trauma throughout black America. He points to two key reasons for this. First, mental illness is unfairly stigmatized in these communities, just as it is throughout American culture. Second, cultural definitions of strength and courage are dictated by efforts to work against institutional ills such as discrimination. How one reacts to these ills, coupled with the community's response to said reaction, adds a lot of tension other Americans don't necessarily have to deal with.

Finally, Lindsey speaks to the value placed on authenticity, a major reason why many sufferers in the black community internalize their strife rather than share it with the outside world.

Bipolar Disorder Is Like Having Two Serious Illnesses at Once

Big Think and the Mental Health Channel are proud to present Big Thinkers on Mental Health, a new series dedicated to open discussion of anxiety, depression, and the many other psychological disorders that affect millions worldwide.


This week, psychiatrist Nicole Foubister delves into the world of bipolar disorder. Most people are casually familiar with bipolar disorder, although few understand the colossal strain it can have on the lives of sufferers and their loved ones. It's vital for people diagnosed as bipolar to open themselves up to treatment and for people close to them to be aware of the illness' ramifications. What's most important is to understand that no one chooses to be bipolar; you must learn to be calm and patient with people who suffer from it. It's not their fault that they lack mental wellness and their behavior during manic episodes is not reflective of who they really are.

Media Sell the Mentally Ill as Violent Criminals. Truth Is, They’re Not.

Big Think and the Mental Health Channel are proud to launch Big Thinkers on Mental Health, a new series dedicated to open discussion of anxiety, depression, and the many other psychological disorders that affect millions worldwide.


In this video, Columbia University forensic psychiatrist Michael Stone dispels common myths about the intersection of violent acts and mental health disorders. He addresses the question of whether people with schizophrenia are more likely to commit violent crimes and how much danger they present to society at large. The answer? Not as much as you'd imagine, given the sensationalism of mainstream media coverage.

How Not to Be a Slave to Your Brain: Mindfulness for Mental Health

Big Think and the Mental Health Channel are proud to launch Big Thinkers on Mental Health, a new series dedicated to open discussion of anxiety, depression, and the many other psychological disorders that affect millions worldwide.


One of the classic definitions of mindfulness is that it helps us avoid clinging to what is pleasant and condemning what is unpleasant. In this video, psychiatrist Mark Epstein relays information about the practice of mindful meditation and its many mental health benefits.

Why Are Our Funniest People Also the Saddest?

Comedians are more likely to have mental health issues than the rest of us. Is it in their nature? Or their environment? And what can they do to help the rest of us improve our own mental health? Dr. Ildiko Tabori, America's foremost therapist for comedians, explains.

Is There A Psychopath Next Door? They’re More Common Than You Think

Every day you're likely to meet a psychopath. Dr. James Fallon of UC Irvine explains what a psychopath is, how they work, and what they want from you -- and he ought to know (but you'll have to watch to find out why).

6 Things You Need To Get Right About Depression

Depression is very common, affecting one in five people — if not you, then a friend or family member. This makes a basic knowledge of the disorder vital for everyone. Dr. Patricia Deldin of the University of Michigan Depression Center debunks misperceptions to encourage a better understanding.

How Childhood Trauma Can Make You A Sick Adult

The Adverse Childhood Study found that survivors of childhood trauma are up to 5,000 percent more likely to attempt suicide, have eating disorders, or become IV drug users. Dr. Vincent Felitti, the study's founder, details this remarkable and powerful connection.

For LGBT People, Discrimination Still Brings Mental Health Challenges.

It wasn’t until 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association voted to remove homosexuality as a mental disorder. The recency of that decision still affects the LGBT community today. It opens the door to discrimination. Discrimination contributes to higher rates of depression, substance abuse, and suicide. Dr. James Dilley of the Alliance Health Project discusses its effects, and the impact that a continued shift toward acceptance can have.

The First Things To Do When You Or Someone You Love Is In Crisis

What should you do when a mental health crisis strikes? Dr. Ken Duckworth of the National Alliance on Mental Illness reveals how understanding the patterns of one's illness and creating an action plan can help individuals and families manage – and even prevent – a crisis.

Mostly, We Respond to Tragedies in Ways That Don’t Really Help

What’s the best way to help after a natural disaster or school shooting? Mass tragedies can take many forms, but in all cases, extreme needs follow. Dr. Will Marling of the National Organization for Victim Assistance shares insight on how to provide support.

Hearing Voices and Paranoid Delusions: Inside a Schizophrenic Brain

Now and then, we've all thought we heard someone calling our name, or noticed a strange coincidence. But for people with schizophrenia, these can take on a much more nefarious quality. Dr. Vikaas Sohal walks us through what it feels like to be inside a schizophrenic brain.

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  • Scientists speculate imitation helps develop social cognition in babies.
  • A new study out of Lund University shows that six-month-olds look and smile more at imitating adults.
  • Researchers hope the data will spur future studies to discover what role caregiver imitation plays in social cognition development.

    • The human mind is one of evolution's marvels, and it's never more marvelous than in our youth. In our first few years of life, our brains create more than a million new neural connections per second. Three months after birth, our cerebellums double in volume to manage those tricky motor functions. We acquire language with no formal instruction. By the time we're toddlers, we develop the realization that oneself and others have desires, emotions, experiences, and intentions.

      That last one may seem a heavy lift for munchkins still grappling with the fact that cows go moo, but research has shown that we come to that realization young. It's a critical piece in the development of our social cognition, our ability to analyze and apply our knowledge of other people and ourselves within social situations.

      Where things become difficult is understanding when and how social cognition develops in children. Because researchers can't ask infants questions directly, they have to conceive of experiments to perceive thought by way of action. This leads to questions of interpretation. Some researchers think babies are already aware of others, while some argue that our theory of mind solidifies during the social hazing of preschool.

      A new clue comes from research recently published in PLOS One, which shows that six-month-olds can recognize when they are being imitated.

      Adults see, adults do?

      Babies imitated by the researcher (shown in green) gave their imitator more attention, smiles, and approaching behavior than babies who received a non-imitative response (blue).

      (Photo: PLOS One)

      According to the study, the experience of being imitated provides infants the scaffolding for their social cognition. When infants see their actions mimicked, it leads them to realize that these actions have social consequences. They learn that movements, vocalizations, and facial expressions cause others around them to behave in certain ways. It's much like how they'll later experiment with cause and effect by banging about blocks.

      To measure the effects imitation has on infants, the researchers set up an experiment with six-month-old babies. A researcher would go to the baby's home and play with them in four different ways. They would either:

      • Imitate everything the baby did (green/MI on the graph),
      • Imitate the reverse of the baby's actions (red/CI).
      • Imitate the baby but remain expressionless (orange/BI), or
      • Respond with a "contingent response" action (blue/CR).

      A contingent response means the researcher acted as most adults would. Instead of imitating the act of reaching for a toy, they would pick it up and hand it to the baby.

      The researchers found that the closer they emulated a baby, the longer they held his or her attention. Such imitation was also correlated with more smiling and a greater desire to approach the researcher.

      "Imitating young infants seems to be an effective way to catch their interest and bond with them. The mothers were quite surprised to see their infants joyfully engaging in imitation games with a stranger, but also impressed by the infants' behaviours," Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc, a researcher at Lund University and the study's lead author, said in a press release.

      According to the release, the babies being imitated also initiated testing behavior. If a baby smacked the table and the research imitated the action, the baby would then repeat the action several times to see how the adult responded.

      "This was quite interesting. When someone actively tests the person who is imitating them, it is usually seen as an indication that the imitated individual is aware that there is a correspondence between their own behaviour and the behaviour of the other," Sauciuc said.

      The sincerest form of flattery

      The study had 16 baby participants, five girls and 11 boys, a small but meaningful sample size. In the study, the researchers note that they hope their data will spur additional research into imitation recognition as well as how infants perceive body language and their awareness of another's intentions toward them.

      "By showing that 6-month-old infants recognise when they are being imitated, and that imitation has a positive effect on interaction, we begin to fill up this [research] gap. We still have to find out when exactly imitation begins to have such effects, and what role imitation recognition actually plays for babies," Sauciuc noted in the same release.

      Those are important questions to answer as early caregiver interactions provide the foundation for many social traits. These may include empathy, self-awareness, reading others' intentions, and cultural norms like turn-taking. They may further expand to other areas of social competency like creativity and confidence. Best of all, for babies and caregivers, imitation provides a fun, and fruitful, way to play.

      • Researchers at UT Southwestern observed a stark improvement in memory after cardiovascular exercise.
      • The year-long study included 30 seniors who all had some form of memory impairment.
      • The group of seniors that only stretched for a year did not fair as well in memory tests.

      When sheltering at home began in Los Angeles, a crew of ambitious Angelenos didn't let gym closures stop their workouts. #100miles30days spread to over 400 participants around the world. It didn't matter how you split up the distance; you just had to walk or run 100 miles in April. While a lot of fitness culture hashtags rely on gimmickry, this challenge was social media at its best.

      Exercise is always important, especially during a time when isolation negatively impacts mental health. Initiatives like the above keep individuals motivated while the term "community" temporarily loses meaning. A workout partner or group fitness class holds you accountable. Some people need responsibility to keep moving, even if one as simple as a hashtag.

      Whether you work out in a group or by yourself, movement is necessary. Reams of research detail the importance of regular exercise. Besides physical health, staying fit leads to good mental health. A year-long study at UT Southwestern again confirms this fact.

      Published in The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 30 volunteers (median age: 66) either ran or stretched for 25-30 minutes three times a week. Each participant had no recent experience with exercise. Every volunteer showed some sign of memory impairment, which was a requirement, as this was a study on memory.

      The stretch group performed a series of flexibility and balance exercises designed to keep their heart rate stable while strengthening their upper and lower bodies. The cardiovascular group completed a number of heart-raising exercises. After a year of continuous exercise, researchers measured cerebral blood flow in each participant.

      The aerobic group showed increased blood flow to two regions key to memory retention: the anterior cingulate cortex (responsible for attention allocation, reward anticipation, impulse control, and more) and the prefrontal cortex (decision making, personality, planning complex behavior, and more). While the stretching group experienced minimal improvement in memory tests over the course of the year, the aerobic group saw a 47 percent jump in test scores.

      Lithuania's Austra Reinberga (C) runs next to New Zealand's Marcia Petley (L) and Columbia's Maria Pastora Londono (R) during the women's 100m final for athletes between 85 and 89 years old, during the World Masters Athletics Championships on August 7, 2015 in Lyon, southeastern France.

      Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP via Getty Images

      As lead author of the study, Binu Thomas, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Center for BrainHealth at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says, aerobic exercise works in your favor at any age. Noting the study was only a small group, he continues,

      "Cerebral blood flow is a part of the puzzle, and we need to continue piecing it together. But we've seen enough data to know that starting a fitness program can have lifelong benefits for our brains as well as our hearts."

      This study follows a wealth of data detailing the impact of exercise on cognition. A University of Vermont study suggests mental health patients consider exercise before starting prescription medication, going so far as to recommend medical centers build gyms in a new therapeutic model.

      A prior review of 33 studies advocated weightlifting as an important protocol for curbing depression. Another study based in Amsterdam called exercise an ideal intervention for treating anxiety disorders and depression. Oxford and Yale researchers discovered the same.

      In 2013, the RAND Corporation estimated that diseases of dementia cost America between $157 billion to $215 billion annually. Previous research specifically cites cardiovascular exercise as key for fighting dementia, including this 2010 study and this study from 2017. In 2013, epidemiologist Bryan James told NPR that aging does not have to result in memory loss.

      "It's simply not pre-destined for all human beings. Lots of people live into their 90s and even 100s with no symptoms of dementia."

      While Thomas speculates that a drug could target blood flow in the regions cited in his study, perhaps we should consider what's kept us healthy for hundreds of thousands of years: regular movement. Your body is in the shape you train for, so best to train it well. Your brain will thank you.

      ----

      Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter, Facebook and Substack. His next book is "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."

      • Canadian polyglot Steve Kaufmann says there is indeed a fast track to learning a new language. It involves doubling down on your listening and reading.
      • By taking the focus off grammar rules that are difficult to understand and even more difficult to remember, you can instead develop habits by greater exposure to the language. Kaufmann likens the learning process to a hockey stick.
      • In the beginning you make major progress as you climb the steep hill of the hockey stick, whereas the long shaft of the stick is the difficult part. Because you're not seeing day-to-day changes, you might lose motivation. So, stay the course by consuming content that interests you.

      Over the past few years, articles and blog posts have started to ask some version of the same question: “Why are all websites starting to look the same?"


      These posts usually point out some common design elements, from large images with superimposed text, to hamburger menus, which are those three horizontal lines that, when clicked, reveal a list of page options to choose from.

      My colleagues Bardia Doosti, David Crandall, Norman Su and I were studying the history of the web when we started to notice these posts cropping up. None of the authors had done any sort of empirical study, though. It was more of a hunch they had.

      We decided to investigate the claim to see if there were any truth to the notion that websites are starting to look the same and, if so, explore why this has been happening. So we ran a series of data mining studies that scrutinized nearly 200,000 images across 10,000 websites.

      How do you even measure similarity?

      It's virtually impossible to study the entire internet; there are over a billion websites, with many times as many webpages. Since there's no list of them all to choose from, performing a random sample of the internet is off the table. Even if it were possible, most people only see a tiny fraction of those websites regularly, so a random sample may not even capture the internet that most people experience.

      We ended up using the websites of the Russell 1000, the top U.S. businesses by market capitalization, which we hoped would be representative of trends in mainstream, corporate web design. We also studied two other sets of sites, one with Alexa's 500 most trafficked sites, and another with sites nominated for Webby Awards.

      Because we were interested in the visual elements of these websites, as data, we used images of their web pages from the Internet Archive, which regularly preserves websites. And since we wanted to gather quantitative data comparing millions of website pairs, we needed to automate the analysis process.

      To do that, we had to settle on a definition of "similarity" that we could measure automatically. We investigated both specific attributes like color and layout, as well as attributes learned automatically from data using artificial intelligence.

      For the color and layout attributes, we measured how many pixel-by-pixel edits we would have to make to transform the color scheme or page structure of one website into another. For the AI-generated attributes, we trained a machine learning model to classify images based on which website they came from and measure the attributes the model learned. Our previous work indicates that this does a reasonably good job at measuring stylistic similarity, but it's very difficult for humans to understand what attributes the model focused on.

      How has the internet changed?

      We found that across all three metrics – color, layout and AI-generated attributes – the average differences between websites peaked between 2008 and 2010 and then decreased between 2010 and 2016. Layout differences decreased the most, declining over 30% in that time frame.

      The graph shows website similarity of companies in the Russell 1000. Lower values mean that the sites studied were more similar, on average. (Sam Goree, Author provided)

      These findings confirm the suspicions of web design bloggers that websites are becoming more similar. After showing this trend, we wanted to study our data to see what kinds of specific changes were causing it.

      You might think that these sites are simply copying each other's code, but code similarity has actually significantly decreased over time. However, the use of software libraries has increased a lot.

      The graph on the left shows a decline in code similarity among Russell 1000 websites, while the graph on the right indicates an increase in library overlap. (Sam Goree, Author provided)

      Libraries feature collections of generic code for common tasks, like resizing a page for mobile devices or making a hamburger menu slide in and out. We looked at which sites had lots of libraries in common and how similar they looked. Sites built with certain libraries – Bootstrap, FontAwesome and JQuery UI – tended to look much more similar to each other. This could be because these libraries control page layout and have commonly used default options. Sites that used other libraries, like SWFObject and JQuery Tools, tended look much different, and that might be due to that fact that those libraries allow for more complex, customized pages.

      The changes of websites from 2005 to 2016 illustrate what's happening.

      Sites with average similarity scores in 2005 tended to look less similar than those with average similarity scores in 2016.

      For example, in 2005, Webshots.com and Yum.com were considered relatively similar, but had somewhat different color schemes and very different layouts. While they both mostly use white, blue and black, the site on the right has a blue background.

      Screenshots from 2006 of Webshots.com and Yum.com. (Sam Goree, Author provided

      Two 2016 sites, Xfinity.com and Gilt.com, on the other hand, are even more similar: They both have a menu bar on the top and are primarily white and black with images. These pages have much less text and make better use of the higher resolution monitors that exist now.

      Screenshots from 2016 of Xfinity.com and Gilt.com. (Sam Goree)

      Is conformity healthy?

      What should be made of this creeping conformity?

      On the one hand, adhering to trends is totally normal in other realms of design, like fashion or architecture. And if designs are becoming more similar because they're using the same libraries, that means they're likely becoming more accessible to the visually impaired, since popular libraries are generally better at conforming to accessibility standards than individual developers. They're also more user-friendly, since new visitors won't have to spend as much time learning how to navigate the site's pages.

      On the other hand, the internet is a shared cultural artifact, and its distributed, decentralized nature is what makes it unique. As home pages and fully customizable platforms like NeoPets and MySpace fade into memory, web design may lose much of its power as a form of creative expression. The Mozilla Foundation has argued that consolidation is bad for the "health" of the internet, and the aesthetics of the web could be seen as one element of its well-being.

      And if sites are looking more similar because many people are using the same libraries, the large tech companies who maintain those libraries may be gaining a disproportionate power over the visual aesthetics of the internet. While publishing libraries that anyone can use is likely a net benefit for the web over keeping code secret, big tech companies' design principles are not necessarily right for every site.

      This outsize power is part a larger story of consolidation in the tech industry – one that certainly could be a cause for concern. We believe aesthetic consolidation should be critically examined as well.

      Bardia Doosti, David Crandall and Norman Su contributed to this article.

      Sam Goree, PhD Student in Informatics, Indiana University

      This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

      • Media and societal norms have been feeding us the same "meat is manly" ideology for decades, maybe without many of us realizing it.
      • A new study questions the stereotypical narrative that real men eat meat by taking a look at the variation in how men identify themselves and their values.
      • The psychological link between meat and masculinity will likely remain alive and well, however, this study (and others that follow suit) can continue to challenge the narrative.

      The idea that "meat is manly" has been peddled for years - in commercials, on advertisements, in stories passed down the patriarchal line for generations. In 1999, Carol J. Adams released what would be the most well-known stab at this ideology with her book "The Sexual Politics of Meat", which is an in-depth assessment of the relationship between masculinity and meat, often pointing to American media as a primary source of meat pandering towards "masculine" society.

      Society’s psychological link between meat and masculinity

      male barbecuing meat while female watching concept of masculinity and meat

      One 2018 study found that men routinely incorporate more red meat in their diet to preempt the negative emotions that are caused by threats to their masculinity.

      Photo by bbernard un Shutterstock

      With the release of her book in 1999, Adams was able to highlight the idea that meat has become something of a symbol of masculinity, mainly by companies attempting to promote meat sales. Putting that theory to the test in today's society, one simple search for "making salad" on a stock image site will give you countless photos of women making salads in their kitchens. Another search for "barbeque" will show dozens of men grilling meat outdoors.

      This association between meat and masculinity is something that has been deemed a societal norm for decades, perhaps without many of us even realizing it. One 2018 study found that men routinely incorporate more red meat in their diet to preempt the negative emotions that are caused by threats to their masculinity.

      A 2013 study argued Adams' original theory on the sexual politics of meat with results that suggested men associate eating meat with animals being lower in a hierarchy system than humans, whereas the majority of women who eat meat try to disassociate animals from food and avoid thinking about the treatment of animals.

      Alongside the narrative that meat is masculine comes the stigma around vegetarianism or veganism. These are both things that society deems "soft", "sensitive" or "whiny".

      According to this Vegan Society survey, while the number of vegans is rapidly increasing (there were three and a half times more vegans in 2016 as there were in 2006), there is still a massive gender gap, with 63 percent of participants identifying as female and 37 percent identifying as male.

      Researchers on this survey theorize that the main cause of this gap is the psychological link between meat and masculinity that is seemingly everywhere in today's society.

      Some men identify with a new form of holistic, self-aware masculinity

      businessman in dress shirt and tie eating a salad at work

      The results of a new 2020 study reveal that there are new forms of masculinity that are linked with less meat consumption and a more positive attitude towards vegetarianism.

      Photo by Stock-Asso on Shutterstock

      A new study questions the stereotypical narrative of carnivores by taking a look at the variation in how men identify themselves and their values.

      In the study, 309 male meat-eating participants were asked about their self-identification with new forms of masculinity, their attachment to eating meat, their willingness to reduce their meat intake, and their general attitudes towards vegetarians.

      The results of this study suggest that men who identify more strongly with new forms of masculinity tend to consume less meat, have a weaker attachment to eating meat, and have a greater tendency to reduce their meat intake when possible. These men also showed more positive attitudes towards people who choose to be vegetarians.

      This study is the first of it's kind to underscore the idea that not all men think alike and that biological sex differences shouldn't be taken into account when studying the consumption (or lack of consumption) of meat products.

      Changing the way researchers conduct studies like this can help turn the tide.

      Modern studies such as this are leaning more towards different tools that place less of a stigma on various types of masculinity. This study, for example, used the New Masculinity Inventory (NMI), where high scores can suggest holistic attentiveness, questioning of male norms, authenticity to self, and sensitivity to male privilege.

      Studies like this, where not only the results but the tools used to conduct the study take into account the varying types of masculinity in the participants, can only offer more accurate results due to being more inclusive and less stereotypical.

      Does vegetarianism stand a chance against meat-eating masculinity?

      The sheer amount of information surrounding vegetarianism and all the attached benefits is astounding - so why is society having such a hard time keeping up? Why are men still less likely to decrease their meat consumption?

      The "meat is manly" ideology will likely remain alive and well in today's society due to advertisements and societal norms, however this study (and others that follow suit) can continue to challenge the narrative. We can continue to promote the idea that vegetarianism isn't feminine and eating meat isn't masculine - they are simply choices that we make based on our unique views and how we feel about the information that is presented to us.