Its the most recent developments trend in the worlds tech capital. But is it really possible to cut yourself off from everything in life that excites you and can it be any good for you?
They have done biohacking, clean sleeping and the keto diet, but now Silicon Valley types have coined a new health tendency- dopamine fasting. It is thought that depriving yourself of the neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger that motivates us to do things, can help to reboot or rebalance the brain. Fasting might necessitate abstinence from technology, artificial lighting, food, drink, conversation, eye contact- basically anything that an individual discovers inducing. But is there any sense to the fad?
” Retreating from life probably attains life more interesting when you come back to it ,” says David Nutt, director of the neuropsychopharmacology unit in the division of brain sciences at Imperial College London.” Monks have been doing it for thousands of years. Whether that has anything to do with dopamine is unclear .”
It is possible to manipulate the production of dopamine through diet, Nutt says. He mentions the velvet bean, which contains high concentrations of a precursor to dopamine.” There is no question that you can have a dietary influence on the production of dopamine ,” he says. “Starvation would probably reduce dopamine to some extent.”
Dopamine is often thought of as a reward, but Joydeep Bhattacharya, who results the research group of cognitive and neuroscience at Goldsmiths, University of London, points out that dopamine is really” about learning the anticipation of the reward, and not the pleasure itself. It is primarily released in this anticipation phase .”
This could counteract dopamine fasting because abstinence might trigger a greater number of thoughts about the things from which a person is abstaining.” The moment we try to abstain, naturally our brain will crave that- so there will be more of a dopamine release .” Similarly, anyone who abstains and has a sense of occasion about the abstinence would be in danger of triggering the production of dopamine, as would a person who periodically congratulates themselves on their abstinence during the course of its abstinence.
Rather than casting this sort of intense, time-limited disengagement as a dopamine fast, it may be better seen as meditation. But dopamine-related hazards lurk there, too. As Nutt, who has studied the production of dopamine in monks, says:” If you transcend in meditation, you might get euphoria, a release of dopamine .” It would seem nowhere is safe.
What can we learn about ourselves from the things we ask online? Seth StephensDavidowitz analysed anonymous Google search data, uncovering disturbing truths about our desires, faiths and prejudices
Everybody lies. People lie about how many beverages they had on the way home. They lie about how often they go to the gym, how much those new shoes cost, whether they read that book. They call in sick when theyre not. They say theyll be in touch when they wont. They say its not about you when it is. They say they love you when they dont. They say theyre happy while in the dumps. They say they like women when they really like men. People lie to friends. They lie to boss. They lie to kids. They lie to parents. They lie to doctors. They lie to spouses. They lie to spouses. They lie to themselves. And they damn sure lie to surveys. Heres my brief survey for you 😛 TAGEND
Have you ever cheated in an exam?
Have you ever fantasised about killing someone?
Were you tempted to lie?
Many people underreport embarrassing behaviours and thoughts on surveys. They want to look good, even though most surveys are anonymous. This is called social desirability bias. An important paper in 1950 provided powerful evidence of how surveys can fall victim to such bias. Researchers collected data, from official sources, on the residents of Denver: what percentage of them voted, dedicated to charity, and owned a library card. They then surveyed the residents to see if the percentages would match. The results were, at the time, shocking. What the residents reported to the surveys was very different from the data the researchers had met. Even though nobody dedicated their names, people, in large numbers, exaggerated their voter registration status, voting behaviour, and charitable giving.
Has anything changed in 65 years? In the age of the internet , not owning a library card is no longer embarrassing. But, while whats embarrassing or desirable may have changed, people tendency to delude pollsters remains strong. A recent survey asked University of Maryland graduates various questions about their college experience. The answers were compared with official records. People consistently dedicated incorrect datum, in ways that constructed them seem good. Fewer than 2% reported that they graduated with lower than a 2.5 GPA( grade point average ). In reality, about 11% did. And 44% said they had donated to the university in the past year. In reality, about 28% did.
Then theres that odd habit we sometimes have of lying to ourselves. Lying to oneself may explain why so many people say they are above average. How big is this problem? More than 40% of one companys technologists said they are in the top 5 %. More than 90% of college professors say they do above-average work. One-quarter of high school seniors think they are in the top 1% in their ability to get along with other people. If you are deluding yourself, you cant be honest in a survey.
The more impersonal the conditions, the more honest people will be. For eliciting truthful answers, internet surveys are better than phone surveys, which are better than in-person surveys. People will acknowledge more if they are alone than if others are in the room with them. However, on sensitive topics, every survey method will elicit substantial misreporting. People have no incentive to tell surveys the truth.
How, hence, can we learn what our fellow humen are really thinking and doing? Big data. Certain online sources get people to admit things there is no way to admit anywhere else. They serve as a digital truth serum. Think of Google searches. Remember situations that induce people more honest. Online? Check. Alone? Check. No person administering a survey? Check.
The power in Google data is that people tell the giant search engine things they might not tell anyone else. Google was invented so that people could learn about the world , not so researchers could learn about people, but it turns out the trails we leave as we try knowledge on the internet are tremendously revealing.
I have spent the past four years analysing anonymous Google data. The revelations have maintained coming. Mental illness, human sexuality, abortion, religion, health. Not exactly small topics, and this dataset, which didnt exist a couple of decades ago, offered surprising new views on all of them. I am now convinced that Google searches are the most important dataset ever collected on the human rights psyche.
The Truth About Sex
How many American humen are gay? This is a regular question in sexuality research. Yet it has been among the toughest questions for social scientists to answer. Psychologists no longer believe Alfred Kinseys famous estimation based on surveys that oversampled prisoners and prostitutes that 10% of American humen are lesbian. Representative surveys now tell us about 2% to 3% are. But sexual preference has long been among the subjects upon which people have tended to lie. I think I can use big data to give a better answer to this question than we have ever had.
First, more on that survey data. Surveys are talking about there are far more gay men in tolerant states than intolerant nations. For example, according to a Gallup survey, the proportion of the population that is gay is almost twice as high in Rhode Island, the nation with the highest support for gay matrimony, than Mississippi, the state with the lowest is supportive of gay wedding. There are two likely explanations for this. First, homosexual men born in intolerant nations may move to tolerant nations. Second, gay humen in intolerant nations may not disclose that they are lesbian. Some insight into explanation number one lesbian mobility can be gleaned from another big data source: Facebook, which allows users to list what gender they are interested in. About 2.5% of male Facebook users who list a gender of interest say they are interested in men; that corresponds approximately with what the surveys indicate.