Nihilism is not a choice or intellectual commitment, but a feeling that simply arrives.
An excessive focus on past failures can make learning about new situtations more difficult.
- A new study confirms that anxiety and depression can lead to difficulties in analyzing data.
- Test subjects with symptoms of those conditions were slower to realize that changes in the game they were played occured.
- The study is not the last word on the topic, but its findings will prompt further investigations.
The learning curve gets harder to climb when you’re anxious<p> In two separate experiments, researchers at UC Berkeley had participants play games for cash prizes. </p><p>The first involved test subjects playing a game, with correct answers being awarded a prize. A wrong answer would lead to a mild electric shock, euphemistically deemed "stimulation" in the study. Participants had to select either a circle or a square, with the correct answer sometimes being predictable but always subject to change. Players showing symptoms of depression or anxiety had a more difficult time than others in keeping track of the changes. </p><p>In the second, players remotely played a similar game without the risk of electric shock. Wrong answers resulted in a loss of prizes. Again, those test subjects reporting anxiety or depression symptoms had a more difficult time keeping up as the conditions of the game changed compared to their peers without those symptoms. </p><p>The findings are in line with several previous studies, including <a href="https://news.berkeley.edu/2015/03/02/anxious-people-decisions/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">one</a> involving some of the same authors, suggesting that anxiety disorders impact people's ability to predict future events using past data. The thought is that an excessive focus on previous failures prevents people from using data on changing conditions as effectively as possible.</p><p>The study also provides new evidence that people with depressive symptoms have similar difficulties in decision making as those with anxiety symptoms. Previous research had suggested the two conditions impacted decision making differently, with the ability to focus on gaining rewards or avoiding pain being affected differently.</p><p>Senior author Sonia Bishop explained the findings to <a href="https://news.berkeley.edu/2020/12/22/in-shaky-times-focus-on-past-successes-if-overly-anxious-depressed/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Berkeley News</a>:</p><p>"When everything keeps changing rapidly, and you get a bad outcome from a decision you make, you might fixate on what you did wrong, which is often the case with clinically anxious or depressed people. Conversely, emotionally resilient people tend to focus on what gave them a good outcome, and in many real-world situations that might be key to learning to make good decisions."</p><p>These findings also point towards treatment options. Techniques, such as those promoted by cognitive behavioral therapy, which help people focus on previous successes rather than failures, can help improve symptoms of various conditions and, by the implications of this study, decision-making ability.<br><br>The limited size of the study and its new findings mean that further investigations will have to take place before these ideas will be widely accepted. However, even the attempt to confirm or deny them will help advance our understanding of these conditions, how we learn, and the human brain in general. As the number of people with symptoms of anxiety and depression increase, these advances can come none too <a href="https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/sask-covid-mental-health-1.5848388" target="_blank">soon</a>. <br></p>
A new study shows that the top rap songs in the U.S. are making increasingly frequent references to depression and suicidal thoughts.
- The most popular rap songs in the U.S. are more frequently making references to mental health problems, particularly suicide and depression.
- A research team analyzed lyrics from the top 25 most popular rap songs released in the years 1998, 2003, 2008, 2013, and 2018, examining the lyrics of artists such as Eminem, Drake, Post Malone, Lil' Wayne, Juice WRLD, Kanye West, and Jay-Z.
- References to suicide rose from 0% to 12%, and references to depression from 16% to 32% over the last 20 years.
Lyrics and mental health<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk3NTMwNC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNzY1MTAzOX0.LucgHFKGAeqMPYhdVTgEZBN1qlPW1C2DX77M4A17PlE/img.png?width=980" id="520ba" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d770fd1d5acafd765747a28c344b3efa" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="944" data-height="573" />
Credit: Alex Kresovich et al. / JAMA Pediatr.<p>The lyrics were analyzed for references to anxiety (e.g. "Do you experience nervousness or shakiness inside, faintness and dizziness?"); depression ("Went through deep depression when my mama passed…"), and suicide or suicidal ideation ("Only once the drugs are done / Do I feel like dying.").</p><p>Overall, the researchers found that about about one-third of the 125 songs referred to anxiety, 22 percent to depression, and 6 percent to suicide. Alarmingly, these percentages had more than doubled in 2018 as compared to 1998. </p><p>Zooming in closer, general mental health-related metaphors in the lyrics had increased from 8 percent to 44 percent over the two decades. References to suicide rose from 0 percent to 12 percent, and references to depression from 16 percent to 32 percent over the last 20 years. Anxiety-related references did not increase significantly. </p>
America's youth is not okay<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e8c85c5d93f972abcb6a5aee50c5f14e"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/BLKuqdAoGvg?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>This isn't just a rapper thing, as <a href="https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/emotional-problems/Pages/Anxiety-Disorders.aspx" target="_blank">research trends</a> over the years are indicating that young Americans are not okay. The trend in emotionally darker rap lyrics mirrors what has been referred to as the "mental health crisis" in the United States.</p><p>Some data has found that psychological stress and suicide risk as rocketed from 2008 to 2017, and that's particularly true among 18 to 25 year-olds. The prevalence of "major depressive episodes" among US adolescents <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/6/e20161878" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">also increased from 2005 to 2014</a>. According to X, anxiety affects around 30 percent of adolescents, with 80 percent never seeking treatment. The crisis reached a fever pitch in 2017 when the suicide rate among 15 to 24 year olds in the United States peaked at its highest level since 1960. From 2007 to 2017, suicide rates among people aged <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db352.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10 to 24</a> rose by a grim 56 percent. Another <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/144/5/e20191187" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">analysis</a> found that suicide attempts among Black youth <a href="https://www.apa.org/news/apa/2020/01/black-youth-suicide" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rose by 73 percent</a> from 1991 to 2017, while declining for whites.</p><p>The finding that rap lyrics have increasing references to mental health problems is significant because of the genre's popularity amongst American youth, who now spend nearly <a href="https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2017/time-with-tunes-how-technology-is-driving-music-consumption/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">40 hours per week</a> listening to music. The authors note that rap artists influence "the development of these young people's identities." </p><p>The researchers noted that they could not determine "whether these lyrical references to mental health are due to rap artists' desires to self-disclose or to instigate discussions about mental health," according to the study. "Because rap is an autobiographical art form, the artists and younger adults may have observed and reflected national trends of distress experienced by themselves or people close to them." </p>
Shifting social stigmas<p>Over the past two decades, rappers have begun to embrace emotional vulnerability in ways they hadn't previously, for example Kanye West and J. Cole. In fact, researchers of the study suggested that the increase of references was linked to Kanye West's 2008 album "808s & Heartbreak," noting that artists such as Drake, Juice WRLD, and Post Malone (all of whom had songs examined in the study) have nodded to West's album as having had influence on their music styles. Even before male emotional introspection and mental health were part of the mainstream discourse, they were being embraced in rap. </p><p>More research will be necessary, the authors write, to understand "how this music can improve the mental health of its listeners or how it might lead to greater risk." In conclusion, the authors highlight that the study underscores a need to examine rap music and now, depending on the messaging, it may be able to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness by putting it in the spotlight. </p>
There is a lot we don't know about psychedelics, but what we do know makes them extremely important.
- Having been repressed in the 1960s for their ties to the counterculture, psychedelics are currently experiencing a scientific resurgence. In this video, Michael Pollan, Sam Harris, Jason Silva and Ben Goertzel discuss the history of psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin, acknowledge key figures including Timothy Leary and Albert Hoffman, share what the experience of therapeutic tripping can entail, and explain why these substances are important to the future of mental health.
- There is a stigma surrounding psychedelic drugs that some scientists and researchers argue is undeserved. Several experiments over the past decades have shown that, when used correctly, drugs like psilocybin and LSD can have positive effects on the lives of those take them. How they work is not completely understood, but the empirical evidence shows promise in the fields of curbing depression, anxiety, obsession, and even addiction to other substances.
- "There's a tremendous amount of insight that can be plumbed using these various substances. There's also a lot of risks there, as with most valuable things," says artificial intelligence researcher Ben Goertzel. He and others believe that by making psychedelics illegal, modern governments are getting in the way of meaningful research and the development of "cultural institutions to guide people in really productive use of these substances."
Psychedelic therapy will become legal in Oregon in 2023. That's thanks largely to a renaissance of psychedelic research that's changing attitudes on the substances' medical potential.
- In November, Oregon voted to legalize psilocybin therapy.
- Psilocybin is already being used in clinical research settings, but it remains a controlled substance on the federal level.
- At the 2020 Web Summit, two experts in the field of psychedelic research and therapy shed light on what the future of psilocybin therapy might look like.