I thought I’d share the rabbit hole my restless, sleep-addled brain took me down on the Internet last night. Like transient dreams, my rabbit-hole escapades are usually quickly forgotten, but today I found myself mulling over a lot of what I had read.

My rabbit hole began with this tweet:

I was really fascinated by these niche research papers, but began dozing off after skimming through a few of them. I wasn’t ready to fall asleep, though, and these Wii papers had put me in a mood to have my mind blown by interesting research experiments. So I decided to search for some psychology studies and stumbled across Dr. Rosenhan’s 1973 research paper, On Being Sane in Insane Places.

On being sane in insane places

I was unsettled by this study. In it, Dr. Rosenhan empirically questions exactly what makes a person “insane” and conducts an experiment in which “eight sane people gain secret admission to 12 different hospitals.” He studies how each of those people are treated and details the circumstances in which they’re discharged. Shockingly, all of the patients (who, mind you, are sane!) were discharged with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, and the average length of their stay — before demonstrating to the hospitals they were well enough to be released — was 19 days.

This study made me start thinking about the trust we ascribe to labels, the stigma associated with those labels (in the case of this study, the particularly negative and detrimental associations of a schizophrenic diagnosis), and the organizations that hand out those labels. As my mind started wandering towards the topic of trust, I was reminded of a show, Golden Balls, that I think is one of the quickest and most exciting spectacles of trust and psychology.

Golden Balls

Golden Balls is a game show that aired from 2007-2009 and an exciting demonstration of the Prisoner’s Dilemma in action. I watched a few highlights on YouTube and got so excited about the psychology behind the show that I wanted a refresher on the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

So I began searching for a good refresher that didn’t include any academic or economic professor jargon and stumbled onto this incredible, 30-minute online game that perfectly and beautifully broke down the Prisoner’s Dilemma in intricate detail and engaging animations: https://ncase.me/trust/.

It had been a while since I was so engrossed with and impressed by an online game. I immediately wanted to know more about its creator, Nicky Case, and spent a while perusing his blog. I was particularly struck by his blog post, https://blog.ncase.me/2010-2019/, which detailed his journey as a creator over the past decade.

That post then reminded me of a fleeting detail I remembered about how Kanye West began school but then dropped out because school took away too much time from his music.

College Dropout

After I remembered that detail about Kanye, I obviously had to go to his Wikipedia page to confirm if I had remembered correctly (I did!). I experienced a brief surge of inspiration as I admiringly read how Kanye’s work and artistic career evolved.

That brief surge of inspiration reminded me of the last time I experienced a similar feeling, which was when I was watching Justin Bieber’s YouTube documentary (no shame).

After I thought about Justin Bieber, I remembered a GQ profile on Justin Bieber I had bookmarked a while back, which was written in 2016. I opened it up and read it, and the profile was absolutely enthralling (huge kudos to the journalist, Caity Weaver, who wrote it). It’s quite rare to read such a humanizing depiction of a person as famous as Justin Bieber. Here’s an example of what I mean:

Justin Bieber is not easy to talk to. A linguist would say he violates backchannel norms. That is, he withholds those subtle signs—short verbal cues like “mmm-hmm,” “right,” and “yeah”; quick head nods—that indicate an engaged listener and that encourage the speaker to continue. You perform these signs countless times a day; it’s something humans do whether they speak English, Hungarian, or Farsi.

I opened up Twitter to see if Justin Bieber had tweeted anything interesting recently. But at this point, it was already past 3am and it was then that I finally fell asleep.